Haleigh Cummings:Nancy Grace, Misty Croslin and her various recent interviews.


Uploaded by DotiBump on 12.10.2009

Transcript:
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TO CRYSTAL SHEFFIELD: THE FLORIDA BAR FILE NO.: 2010-50, 286 (171I)
When I received this complaint to the Florida Bar by Crystal Sheffield, I was extremely
saddened, and staggered by the allegations. I have been an upstanding member of the Florida
Bar for fourteen (14) years, and have never been subject to any disciplinary action in
my entire career. I presently serve as an active member of the Florida Bar’s Family
Law Section’s Support Committee and Litigation Support Committee. I have always accepted
complicated pro bono cases through Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Dade County Legal
Aid Society, Put Something Back Program, judicially appointed Guardian Ad Litem assignments, and
private cases I feel strongly about. I am a mother of three (3) young children, and
when I was asked to represent another Mom who had just lost her five (5) year old daughter
to an alleged abductor, I felt compelled to accept her case.
I was confronted with many difficult choices in this high-media case, which literally consumed
my law practice, my family life, and my energy. Initially, I embarked on the Sheffield case
with a fierce determination to right the wrongs of this mourning mother’s life, and history
of abuse. However, as an attorney, I was bound by the Rules of the Bar, and was constantly
confronted with situations that do not regularly occur in my customary family law cases. And
many times, such as the one under consideration here, clients resent the attorney that will
not bend the rules governing the practice of law to achieve the results they demand.
In order to properly respond to the Complaint filed by Crystal Sheffield, I must give a
detailed background of the events that transpired in the initial stages of my representation
of the client. Haleigh Cummings, a five (5) year old child, disappeared from her Father’s
mobile home in Satsuma, Florida, on or around February 10th, 2009. She has not been found,
and there are presently no suspects named, or in custody with regard to her disappearance.
Her mother was my client, Crystal Sheffield. The Father of the child is Ronald Cummings,
who was awarded custody of Haleigh and her four (4) year old brother, Ronald Cummings,
Jr., by and through a Judgment of Paternity in 2005 in Putnam County, Florida.
A. INITIAL CONTACT WITH FAMILY When I was contacted by Crystal Sheffield
to be her spokesperson for the media and assist in family law issues, it had been approximately
one (1) month since her five (5) year old child, Haleigh Cummings, had disappeared from
her Father’s home. Crystal, her family, friends, and advocate, had already appeared
on numerous occasions on national and local television, late night news shows, had given
multiple interviews to journalists. As the mother of the missing child, Crystal Sheffield
and her family were under intense scrutiny of the national and local spotlight. I did
not represent Ms. Sheffield’s family members in any capacity.
Contrary to the allegations in the Complaint, I was first contacted by Crystal Sheffield
through her Advocate, Wayanne Kruger, on March 9, 2008. I did not initiate contact with anyone
involved in the case, and quite frankly, had little knowledge of the circumstances other
than what I had seen on late night news. My cellular telephone records reflect the date
and the time of the initial three-way call I received from Satsuma, Florida from Child
Advocate, Wayanne Kruger, and a private investigator for Ms. Sheffield by the name of William Staubs.
Exhibit to be Provided Upon Request. I had been referred to the case by Mr. Staubs, an
investigator and bail bondsman from whom I had personally knew from Fort Lauderdale,
Florida. Crystal was being highly criticized by the media, as she was not the custodial
parent of the missing child. Further, Crystal had become the object of the public’s outrage,
due to her admitted limited involvement with her children prior to Haleigh’s disappearance,
failure to pay child support since the Final Judgment of Paternity in 2005. In fact, days
before the child went missing, Crystal had been served with a Motion for Contempt and
a notice to appear in court for failure to pay child support to the custodial parent,
Ronald Cummings. There was active and intense media attention
devoted to the missing child’s case, which fell on the heels of Casey Anthony’s arrest
for the murder of her young daughter in Orlando, Florida. The family members, friends, and
enemies on both sides of the missing child’s family, were being subject to intense intrusions
and investigations by the media and the public at large. The private investigator and advocate
explained that they needed an aggressive non-local attorney to assist Ms. Sheffield attempt to
overturn the previous court decision granting the Father primary custody, as Crystal had
never been served with any pleadings on the matter prior to the Court’s 2005 ruling.
Further, they believed that Ronald Cummings family had corrupt “ties” with the local
authorities, who were attempting to “cover-up” facts and circumstances about the child’s
abduction. They firmly believed that the family’s telephones and homes were being wire tapped,
and that they were under surveillance by authorities, the media, and the Cummings family.
The following day, March 10, 2009, I spoke with directly with Crystal Sheffield on the
telephone for the first time. She was timid, and grief stricken. I attempted to get basic
facts about her, and her background, but she was quite clearly too traumatized by the abduction
of her daughter to speak at great lengths. I could almost feel the sheer grief in her
voice, and when she asked me if I would come to Satsuma to help her, I did not hesitate.
I initially informed Crystal that it is usually beneficial to have a local attorney litigate
any post judgment issues in her paternity case, but she believed that all of the lawyers
and law enforcement in Putnam County were “corrupt” and incompetent. After several
telephone calls that day with Crystal Sheffield, I was determined to help this grieving mother
who I believed had been a victim of media “spin”, and had been unfairly treated
in her original paternity litigation. I agreed to give my services to her on a pro bono basis.
I understood that she would not be able to pay any litigation costs whatsoever, as she
was indigent and unemployed, so agreed to personally cover those expenses as well.
By March 11, 2009, my office was being bombarded with calls from nearly every national and
Florida media outlet in the nation. My office staff and I were literally inundated with
hundreds of telephone calls and emails from concerned members of the public, well-wishers
for, or detractors against, Crystal Sheffield, and psychics with “solid” theories of
where the missing child could be found. B. COMMENCEMENT OF REPRESENTATION/DILIGENCE
On March 11, 2009, I said goodbye to my own family, and drove from my home in Broward
County, Florida, 4 ½ hours to Satsuma, Florida, to begin my role as spokesperson and attorney
for Crystal Sheffield. During the drive to Putnam County, I received telephone call after
telephone call from members of the press, and locals in the Putnam County area who wanted
to tell me information they had with regard to the disappearance of Haleigh Cummings.
Members of the community came out of the woodwork to describe a dangerous and abusive lifestyle
led by the Cummings/Sheffield children while in the custody of their Father. When I arrived
in Satsuma, Florida on the evening of March 11, 2009, to personally meet my client, Crystal
Sheffield, she was holding a televised candle light vigil for her missing daughter. She
and her family had erected a tent outside the gates of the trailer park from which Haleigh
went missing. The makeshift tarp was exposed to the elements, but friends and family gathered
there during the day and evening to convene and stage nightly Vigils in Haleigh’s honor.
In our initial meetings I attempted to gain background facts about my client, and her
relationship with her children. The picture that was initially presented to me upon my
entry into the case was much different than what I later learned to be factually true
and correct. As a family lawyer, I understand that a client’s perception of their family
law case and the outcome of the litigation, may be colored by emotional bias.
The client and her family informed me that Crystal had begun living with Ronald Cummings,
then age 16-17, when she was only 14 years of age. She and Ronald lived in a small mobile
home, and were both using drugs for years during their relationship. Crystal did not
work during the relationship. Haleigh was born when Crystal was still a teenager, and
suffered from Turner Syndrome. Her medical condition required the child to have special
and frequent medical attention. Ronald Cummings was gainfully employed during most of their
relationship. After their second child was born, when Crystal was 19 years of age, the
couple separated. Crystal explained that after their separation, Ronald kidnapped the children,
by failing to return them after visitation. Thereafter, he retained the children in his
custody, and filed a Paternity actions seeking primary residential parent status. Crystal
claimed not to have been served with any pleadings or notices whatsoever by the Court. She later
became aware that Ronald had intentionally given the Clerk of Court an incorrect address
at which to serve her with process. The Final Hearing came and went, and Crystal was not
allegedly aware that the proceedings had taken place. According to Crystal, custody of her
children was awarded to the Father, Ronald Cummings, by default. No post-judgment requests
for modification of child custody or timesharing were ever filed by Crystal.
Crystal and her family were very concerned about the welfare of the children for many
years after the Final Judgment. According to the client and her family, the Father of
the children physically abused the children. They stated they had called the Department
of Children and Family (“DCF”), and had made numerous complaints over the years, but
that no action was ever taken against Cummings. The client and her family gave me multiple
pictures of the children with bruises and scrapes, which they claimed had been inflicted
by the Father. Further, Crystal represented that Cummings had an extensive criminal history,
however had never served jail time because his Mother worked for the court system and/or
police, and they felt used her influence to ensure criminal charges against her son were
dropped. Crystal and her family were convinced that Cummings and teen girlfriend, Misty Croslin,
were directly responsible for the disappearance of Haleigh. They demanded that I investigate
the claims, and paint a more accurate portrait to the media of the background, and lifestyle,
of Cummings and Misty Croslin. Given the severity of the abuse allegations,
I made an immediate appointment with the Putnam County Department of Children and Families,
as well as the law enforcement authorities investigating the disappearance of little
Haleigh. Crystal and her family encouraged me to keep Haleigh’s face in the media,
and to tell the world the truth about Cummings. They believed that if the world knew of his
background, there would be a public demand to ensure law enforcement investigated his
involvement in the abduction. Since the family believed that the authorities were corrupt
and biased toward the Cummings family, they insisted that the “truth” about Haleigh’s
Father be subject to public scrutiny to ensure nothing was “covered up” for him.
It was clear that the matriarch of the family was Crystal’s mother, Marie Griffis. Marie
was at all times outspoken, demanding, and extremely controlling of Crystal. She insisted
that certain aspects of the case be divulged to the media. Mostly, this information related
to negative rumors about Ronald Cummings. When Haleigh disappeared, Marie and Crystal
temporarily resided in Satsuma, FL. At that time, I learned that Marie Griffis had already
begun a rather formal and publicized campaign for donations for her family. When I first
arrived in Satsuma, I noted a handwritten poster at the family’s Haleigh Tent advertising
a raffle for a Ford Expedition to take place on March 16, 2009. Exhibit To Be Provided
upon Request. The raffle had been arranged by Marie Griffis with a local car dealership
in her local town. All proceeds of the raffle were to be donated to the Sheffield/Griffis
family. Further, the family and their friends had organized charity events in Haleigh’s
honor at local businesses, set out donation jugs in town and at the tent, ordered tee
shirts, pins and other trinkets with Haleigh’s picture and information displayed, and were
selling these items for a profit to locals and tourists. All proceeds were, at that juncture,
unaccounted for to my knowledge, and were being spent as they came in by the Crystal
and Marie Griffis. Although my area of expertise is not in charitable
organizations, I understood that these activities required legal formalities. I had several
discussions with Crystal and family regarding the propriety of seeking donations for their
personal financial support. In my judgment, a request for temporary financial aid to Crystal
would be appropriate during the initial states of the investigation. However, I cautioned
the family, on numerous occasions, that as time went on, continued efforts by them to
solicit funds and donations would not be well taken by the public. When I came into the
case, the family was in the process of creating a website in Haleigh’s honor, as the Father’s
side of the family had already put up a website and was receiving donation therefrom. The
family requested a “PayPal” donation button on their own website, but I refused. Since
the family had already been soliciting donations and had scheduled charity events planned in
the near future, I was under extreme pressure to ensure they were acting legally. My staff
spent long hours building the website for Crystal, and were able to secure a website
design company, IBI Designs, out of Boca Raton, Florida to donate their services for free.
Correspondence and Staff Notes Provided Upon Request. We constructed a link for visitors
to leave an Anonymous Tip for any information regarding the disappearance of Haleigh on
the website. All anonymous tips were diverted directly to my personal email address, and
I would forward the same to law enforcement. I received over one hundred anonymous tips
through the link on the Haleighbug.com website. I also arranged for and paid for a toll free
telephone number for the public to call to send well wishes to Crystal and/or leave information
regarding Haleigh’s disappearance. I purchased a separate cellular telephone which was answered
by a paid staff member to field calls on the toll free number. I incurred over $70,000
in costs and expenses on Crystal Sheffield case. Expense Spread Sheets and Receipts Provided
upon Request. In total, I spent over 1,280 hours of my own time handling the various
issues involved in the case, working on the various public awareness projects, investigating
the disappearance of Haleigh, meeting with family, law enforcement and other officials,
working on post-judgment family law issues, and providing information to DCF.
It was immediately apparent that the Haleigh Tent erected by the family was not a suitable
place for our staff to set up their various computers, printers, files and/or field calls.
We were in need of a central location for my staff and team members to meet, and for
friends and family of Crystal to convene during the day. I rented a small building on the
main highway of Satsuma. Crystal called it “the Haleigh Bug Center”, a term of endearment
she had often called Haleigh prior to her disappearance. The building was not in good
repair, so my team members and local volunteers, spent days putting in carpet, flooring, making
the bathroom functional, caulking windows, etc. We decided to paint the building purple,
Haleigh’s favorite color. Everyone who drove down the main street in Satsuma would then
notice the purple building, in furtherance of our public awareness campaign of the search
for Haleigh. Crystal took great pride and happiness in
fixing up The Haleigh Bug Center, which was decorated inside and out with Haleigh’s
favorite things. I spent thousands of dollars remodeling, furnishing and filling the building
with office equipment and supplies for the family. The Haleigh Bug Center represented
many things to many people, but I felt it was a place where Crystal and her family could
convene with local residents to discuss their grief over the disappearance of Haleigh Cummings.
The Haleigh Bug Center became the hub of the Satsuma community – a place where friends
and families would come to visit Crystal, and pray for the return of Haleigh. Crystal
and her family spent substantial time at the Center, a place of comfort for her. I ensured
there was funding for community barbeques at the Center, with free food and drinks for
the community to thank them for all of their support for the continued search for Haleigh
Cummings. C. TRUST AGREEMENT AND ACCOUNT
Due to the family’s active solicitation of donations prior to my being involved in
the case, my staff contacted one of the most reputable charity and fundraising law firms
in the country, Copilevitz and Canter, PA, out of Kansas City, Missouri. The firm agreed
to give us legal advice on a pro bono basis. Correspondence to/from Gregory Lam, Esquire
to be provided upon Request. In order to legally solicit donations for a particular person,
ergo, Crystal Sheffield, we would need to follow the requirements of Fla. Stat. §
496.413, and establish a Trust Account for Crystal to receive all donations solicited
and received by her for her financial support. The family did not want to establish a charitable
account for in Haleigh’s name, as they claimed Cummings was the primary custodial parent,
and would have a right to access the funds. I retained Brian Page, Esquire, of Greenspoon
Marder, P.A. in Florida, who agreed to draft the Trust Agreement on a pro bono basis. I
worked with Page regarding the various provisions to be included in the trust, as well as the
funds that were presently being received by the family. Mr. Page informed me that the
small amount of donations received thus far were not a concern, and that the family needed
to fully account for all moneys received in the future with receipts. After the Trust
document was executed, Crystal could open up a Trust Account at a local bank, and the
funds would flow directly in and out of that account.
I informed Crystal and family of the attorney’s advice, and to closely monitor all funds received,
and spent by them. I also instructed the family to keep a log book to keep written record
on the receipt and expenditure of all donations received. Marie Griffis personally kept a
book of receipts and expenditures, and she has produced a copy of her entries to my office.
Document Provided Upon Request. Marie informed me that her personal friend, Debbie Huddleston,
retained other log entries of receipts, through written correspondence. Email Provided Upon
Request. Crystal and Marie are well aware that I did not keep any books or receipts
for their donations, as I never personally accepted, solicited or held any funds or donations
whatsoever. Marie is in possession of every document she kept at the Haleigh Bug Center.
Crystal received donations directly, usually handed to her directly in cash from friends
or family, or mailed directly to her address. I was never ever in possession of, or had
knowledge of the amount of funds the family received, or spent.
Crystal Sheffield told me on numerous occasions that she had given the envelope of cash donations
to her personal friend, Jeremiah Regan. Jeremiah was the son of a local pastor, and had befriended
Crystal prior to my entry into the case. I did not personally know Jeremiah Regan prior
to this time, but it was the client’s decision as to who should hold her funds. I conferred
with Crystal on several occasions to confirm she wanted Jeremiah Regan to continue holding
her funds, and she affirmed this to me on several occasions in front of friends, family
and my staff members. Marie Griffis did not seem to like or trust Jeremiah, but Crystal
felt comfortable with him holding her “envelope” for her. I have no information or evidence
that Jeremiah Regan ever mishandled any funds contributed to Crystal Sheffield. He has provided
a formal accounting of moneys expended from contributions, and a copy has been previously
provided to Crystal and her family. Document available upon Request.
Until a Trust or other legal mode of soliciting donations was in place, I instructed the family
to cease all attempts to collect funds from the public. Emails provided upon Request.
We had several conflicts with Crystal’s choice of Trustee for her Trust. She could
not decide who was to be named Trustee, and changed her mind on several occasions. Without
a named Trustee, the trust attorney, Brian Page, was unable to complete the Trust Agreement
for the family. Finally, Marie Griffis wrote me an email stating that she had given Crystal
$1,400 to put in her personal account, and only had $217.00 left in donations. Email
Provided Upon Request. Further, the family made numerous allegations against friends
and/or family members stealing funds from the donations. Emails Provided upon Request.
I could not control the bickering between friends and family over the funds, and they
became very distrustful over one another. I would hold meetings with the family and
their friends in an attempt to quell the issues between them, to no avail.
By early May, 2009, I was informed by Marie that all funds from donations had been spent
by the family, they had not agreed on a suitable Trustee for their Trust Account. Marie Griffis
expressed her desire to form the nonprofit organization to seek donations from the public
to aid families of missing children, and the search for Haleigh Cummings. Further, Marie
stated she wanted to “get her daughter off the couch” and have her do something besides
watch television all day. I became aware that Marie had already been in negotiations with
a concert promoter to hold a concert event to honor Haleigh, and to gain contributions
and funds. Email Provided Upon Request. I highly disagreed with such organized efforts
to raise money in the name of the search for Haleigh Cummings. Email Provided Upon Request.
Already, there was a vocal minority of the public that felt that Crystal’s seeking
of donations was insidious, and was an attempt to make a living off her own missing child.
The public began sending me “hate emails”, chastising me for being involved in an effort
to make money off of the name of a missing child. I did my best to curb the detractors,
and was consistently having to engage in damage control to keep Crystal from appearing like
a mother who was getting rich off her child’s tragedy.
I never saw the funds that were received by the family, never received single dime from
donations to Crystal, and never asked for, or received, a single reimbursement for the
tens of thousands of dollars of supplies, costs, expenses, office equipment, and staff,
I had gratuitously devoted to the case. I never opened a Trust Account for the family,
as the Trust Agreement was not completed, and all funds collected were spent by the
family. Marie kept all log books, documents and papers regarding the families’ receipt
of funds from the public. The allegations of a “money scheme” by
Haleigh Cummings’ family increased over time, and the family was eventually reported
to the Department of Agriculture. I agreed to assist them in the complaint process, and
obtained legal advice from the law firm of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, and Adler, PA, in Broward
County, Florida. We began the process of setting up a charitable organization to be run by
Marie Griffis and Crystal Sheffield. I personally paid for all fees for the incorporation, registration
with the state and counties, and filled out required forms to be signed by Marie and Crystal.
I did not have, nor did I desire, any interest in the corporation, Haleigh Bug Foundation,
Inc. Initially, I was listed as the Registered Agent for the corporation, but later transferred
that title to Marie Griffis. Haleigh Bug Foundation, Inc. was officially incorporated on May 8,
2009, and granted permission to solicit donations to the public on July 1, 2009. All Official
Documents and Correspondence to be Provided upon Request. I have never had any dealings
or association of any kind with the Haleigh Bug Foundation, Inc., other than the initial
set-up process. I advised the family that we could obtain an accountant to go over record
keeping procedures for the corporation, but Marie stated she was a certified tax planner,
and had a nephew who was a certified public accountant to handle the books. Emails To
Be Provided Upon Request. D. DILIGENCE IN POST JUDGMENT FAMILY LAW ISSUES
In my first week on the case, I met with DCF officials regarding the allegations of abuse
against Ronald Cummings, the children’s custodial parent. Crystal attended the meeting
with me. To my surprise, a DCF investigation was already ongoing with regard to the welfare
of the child remaining in Ronald Cummings’ care. For months thereafter, I worked tirelessly,
giving additional information and witness names to the DCF caseworker in charge of the
file. I provided the pictures of injuries to the children to the DCF caseworker, however
I later learned that those injuries had previously been investigated by DCF at the request of
Crystal Sheffield, and no evidence of abuse was found.
I ordered the case file in the parties 2005 Paternity case, including having all hearings
transcribed. Upon reviewing the court file, I found that my client had not been completely
honest with me regarding her involvement in the Paternity proceedings of 2005. The Court
file reflected an Affidavit of Service of the original Petition for to Establish Paternity,
personally served on Crystal Sheffield. Crystal then missed the Final Hearing, and the Court
entered a Final Judgment of Paternity in favor of the Father. Ms. Sheffield then wrote a
letter to the Court explaining that she had never been served with the paperwork or a
Notice of Hearing. The Court granted a rehearing of the case, and Ms. Sheffield was represented
by counsel, Charles Behm, Esq., in those proceedings. At the Final Hearing, Ms. Sheffield’s attorney
was not in the Courtroom, pursuant to the transcript. The Court took testimony from
both parties during the Final Hearing. The testimony reflects that Crystal did not have
a job or job prospects at the time of the trial, that she had used drugs during the
relationship, that she had missed twelve (12) recent doctor appointments for the children,
that she had no way of providing medical insurance to the children, that she was living with
her mother who financially supported her, that she would need to share a bedroom with
one of the children while living with her mother, and that she made few attempts to
have timesharing with the children for months after the Father took custody of them due
to his concerns with her cocaine use. The Court ruled that the Father be designated
primary custodial parent, and that Crystal could visit the children on alternating weekends
(with shared holidays). Crystal was imputed minimum wage income for purposes of child
support. Thereafter, Crystal filed exceptions to the
General Magistrate’s Report, requesting a reconsideration of the ruling. The Court
held a hearing on the motion, and denied relief. The Circuit Court Judge then ratified and
approved the Magistrate’s Report and Recommendations. Upon reading the court file, I realized that
I had not been given thorough or accurate information regarding the procedural history
of the paternity action. The procedures followed by the Court were standard. Crystal had had
her day in Court, and had lost – fair and square.
Prior to my coming onboard in the case, Crystal and her family, in an effort to raise her
public image, had told numerous media outlets that the only reason that she did not have
custody of her children was that she was not served with court papers, and had lost custody
by default. Also, she claimed on national television that Ronald had kidnapped the children,
and that his family, through their collusion and “connections” in the courthouse, made
sure that Ronald retained custody of the children. This claim was simply untrue, and I was wholly
unwilling to corroborate their previous version of the court file. I spent numerous meetings
with Crystal and her mother, explaining that I could not attest facts that were untrue
to the media, or to anyone else. At that time, I believe that a wedge began to form between
Marie Griffis and I. Crystal’s former private investigator William
Staubs entered into a contract for investigative work with Crystal’s Father, Johnny Sheffield.
Surprisingly, Crystal’s own father began doing interviews with avant guard media forums
claiming that Crystal had a present drug problem, and was in need of rehabilitation. Media Content
Provided Upon Request. In late March, 2009, Crystal Sheffield suffered a seizure while
driving her vehicle with her infant daughter in the car. Upon learning of the car accident,
I was then informed by Crystal’s fiancé for the first time that Crystal had been previously
instructed not to drive her vehicle by her primary care physician, as she had suffered
seizures in the past. Unbeknownst to me, Crystal’s father had
come upon the scene of her car accident to assist his daughter. Crystal’s Father has
allegedly executed a sworn affidavit stating that when he came upon the scene of the accident,
Crystal admitted to being on prescription pain medication (unprescribed), and gave her
father the pills to hide from the police who were on their way to the accident site. I
was not aware of Crystal’s drug use, or of the affidavit executed by her own Father,
until months later, in June, 2009. The Department of Children and Families became
aware of the allegations of drug use by Crystal. DCF requested a random toxicology test of
Crystal Sheffield, during the course of their investigation, as they found it relevant to
investigate Crystal’s fitness as a parent. At that time, in June 2009, I learned from
DCF that Crystal’s infant daughter, Chloe, not even one (1) year of age, had been born
with illegal narcotics in her system due to Crystal’s drug use during her pregnancy.
The DCF caseworker had not informed me of this DCF case against my client, and I had
no prior knowledge of the case until that time. DCF dismissed the investigation against
Ronald Cummings, without explanation. I felt as if I was only being told relevant
information by the family, after a fiasco had occurred. I could not represent a client
who was not being honest with me, and was taking illegal drugs. To make matters worse,
In April 2009, Crystal admitted to me that she had taken unprescribed pain medication.
Further, her mother, Marie Griffis, reported to me that Crystal had stolen her step-father’s
pain medication after he had surgery in April 2009. I was extremely concerned over my client’s
drug use. Crystal assured me that it was not an addiction, and that it had only taken a
few pills due to back pain from an old car accident. In April, 2009, Crystal suffered
another seizure, and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. All of these incidents played
out loudly in the media. Despite my requests to family and friends to withhold all comments
to the media about Crystal’s seizures, they defied my recommendations. As such, I then
was forced to issue numerous press statements regarding Crystal’s status. Emails and Media
Content Provided Upon Request. After learning of these incidents, I had multiple
conversations with my client regarding her potential for success in a family court proceeding
to modify custody. She was again unable to drive due to her seizures, and had not begun
to look for a job. She had no ability to support herself or her children, and there was evidence
of her recent drug use and driving while under the influence of unprescribed pain medication.
Further, her own Father had strongly represented to the media that he would testify that she
was not fit to care for her children, due to her consistent drug use. After multiple
conferences with Crystal, we decided to request a copy of the toxicology report from the Hospital
where she was taken after her car accident, to confirm whether there was documentary evidence
of her driving under the influence of drugs. Documentary evidence of that sort would be
devastating to her chances at modifying custody, even in the most perfect of circumstances.
Despite repeated requests, both in writing and orally, Crystal failed to request the
toxicology test results from the Putnam County Medical Center. Correspondence Provided Upon
Request. Despite Marie Griffis demanding I file a modification proceeding to seek custody
of Crystal’s son in Ronald Cummings’ care, I was not willing to lie to the Court, and
I did not feel that such an action would be successful. Marie Griffis became increasingly
angered at my hesitancy to file a court action for a change of custody. In good faith, I
was simply not willing to file such a pleading, knowing my client was using drugs, suffered
seizures and could not drive. Further, Crystal was prescribed very heavy medication for her
seizures, which caused her to be disoriented, dizzy, and have slurred speech. Filing an
action for a change of custody was simply not going to be successful at that juncture.
I informed Crystal and Marie on several occasions of my recommendations and my opinions, but
it was met with anger and frustration. There were many times that I requested private meetings
with my client alone, as otherwise, her mother would insert her own feelings and demands
on me and the case strategy, leaving Crystal’s feelings and desires unheard and discarded.
I turned my attention on resolving conflicts between the parties with time sharing, pick-up
and drop off, and co-parenting. Crystal had never complained about her complete lack of
involvement in her children’s lives since 2005. She did not attend doctors or dentist
appointments, or even know who their medical care providers were. She did not ever visit
the children during the week, even though her Final Judgment provided that the alternating
weekends were a minimum visitation schedule, and permitted her to see the children during
the week upon notice. Crystal did not speak with her children over the telephone during
the week, and her only contact with them was roughly four (4) days per month on alternating
weekends. Crystal had not been involved in Haleigh’s school, school functions, and
did not even know what school Ronald, Jr. would be attending in the Fall of 2009. In
an effort to increase her awareness and involvement in Ronald, Jr. life and upbringing, I worked
amicably with opposing counsel, Jerry Snider, Esquire, of Palatka, Florida.
I conferred with Crystal about all the typical problems that had historically arisen between
the parties involving the children. I asked what she “would like” to happen in the
future with regard to her involvement in the children’s lives. And I was able to enter
into an Agreed Order resolving all of these conflicts in Crystal’s favor. The Agreed
Order gave Crystal a renewed sense of parenting Ronald, Jr., and would lend in reestablishing
her relationship with Haleigh, if found and returned home safe.
E. DISCLOSURE OF PRIVILEGED INFORMATION TO MEDIA AND/OR INTERNET BLOGGERS
Prior to this case, I had no idea what a “blog” was, and had never been on any discussion
or message board. From the very inception of my role on the case, Marie Griffis began
sending me emails from various blog sites, and/or comments posted by members of the public
following internet news stories. As stated, in March 2009, Crystal Sheffield was disliked
and distrusted by the public, and there was a growing internet public that spread rumors
about Crystal and her family. I instructed the entire family and their friends to stay
away from the Internet blogsites, and that my staff would monitor the discussion boards
for any pertinent information or issues to be handled by me. Emails To Be Provided Upon
Request. I kept in close contact with the Putnam County
Sheriff’s Office during my representation of Crystal Sheffield. When I was first retained
by Crystal, I conferred with the lead members of the Task Force investigating Haleigh’s
disappearance. It was my understanding that Crystal was not a prime suspect in the case.
The lead investigator on the Haleigh Task Force is Detective Peggy Cone, with whom I
had multiple telephone calls with on a weekly basis. Every credible lead or tip received
by me or members of my team were given, usually in writing, to Detective Peggy Cone. I made
it clear to Putnam County Sheriff’s Office that I did not want my role as Crystal’s
attorney to impede the investigation in any way, and that we were there to assist in any
way we could. It was imperative that every member of my team, or those associated with
Crystal Sheffield, remained above-board, and in good standing with law enforcement. I insisted
upon proper procedures being followed by all of my employees, as well as the volunteers
who assisted in the case. I enjoyed a good relationship with the detectives on the Task
Force, and was given assurances that they appreciated how I handled the difficulties
of case. Although I gave specific recommendations and
guidance to Crystal to call the Sheriff’s Office once per week to check on the status
of Haleigh’s case, she failed to do so. I do not believe she called the Sheriff’s
Office for a status report on a single occasion during my representation. As such, I took
the initiative and kept in close contact with the investigators on the case. I arranged
for meetings between Crystal and the Task Force on several occasions. On one occasion,
it was intimated that the intense media coverage was causing a circus type atmosphere in the
case. After the conclusion of the meeting, I spoke at great lengths with Crystal and
her mother about slowing down our appearances in the media. Marie Griffis was extremely
upset, and demanded that we keep Haleigh’s face on the news. We discussed the pros and
cons of the continued media appearances, and I attempted to persuade the family that we
needed to heed the directives of law enforcement. Unfortunately, my recommendations were met
with great resistance and anger by Marie Griffis. Thereafter, I spoke with Crystal, advised
her that we needed to respect law enforcement’s wishes, and she agreed. I then began to gradually
accept less media offerings, with the consent of my client.
At all times, Crystal and Marie Griffis were aware and encouraged me to continue having
staff members monitor the discussion boards for relevant information, and to quell rumors.
Marie was very distressed about the internet rumor mill, and I felt she put too much emphasis
on the “name calling” that was going on over the internet. Prior to my entry on the
case, Marie, members of the family, and their friends, engaged in a war of words over the
internet to fend off Crystal’s detractors. I encouraged them to stop blogging, and allow
members of my staff to monitor the internet. If a comment or rumor needed to be handled,
I often times discussed the matter with Crystal and or made announcements through the media
with the express client’s consent. In May 2009, Marie Griffis again began to blog on
the internet. Blogs to be Provided Upon Request. When asked about this issue, she denied the
same to me. I soon learned that much of the public’s
conversation regarding the Haleigh Cummings case over the internet served as the foundation
for media and news stories. My staff members had strict instructions never to blog –
just to report any issues that I may need to be aware of. Interestingly, my staff came
upon relevant internet chatter by local residents to the Putnam County and surrounding areas,
swapping rumors or eye witness accounts of the behavior, lifestyles, and whereabouts
of Ronald Cummings and Misty Croslin. Many of the posters on the internet knew them personally,
or lived in their neighborhoods. The monitoring of the discussion boards became an important
tool in gaining inside information about Ronald Cummings and Misty’s lifestyle leading up
to the disappearance of Haleigh. I contacted the Administrators of two (2)
of the most reputable News Crime Websites, who set up accounts for my staff. Again, my
staff did not blog, they only monitored relevant information being discussed, and passed the
same along to me. I became quite friendly with the two (2) Administrators of the crime/news
websites, who would likewise pass along information to me that was relevant in the case, e.g.
arrests of key persons of interest, sitings of Haleigh around the country, rumors of mistreatment
of Ronald, Jr. witnessed by locals. Marie and Crystal were fully aware that my staff
monitored the internet for information, and were copied on multiple occasions with various
information my staff had come upon. Emails provided upon Request.
There were numerous occasions wherein the media and/or Administrators from news/crime
websites, Kendall Clark, a/k/a Pirate Girl, and Karen Devine, a/k/a Top Gunner, requested
confirmation or denial about a particular rumor or case fact. As a the media spokesperson
for Crystal, it was part of my job function to confirm and/or deny rumors regarding the
case and my client, whether it be to the media with a camera, or to internet news website
Administrator. So long as the information was not privileged or could impede the investigation,
I kept the public updated about the facts and status of the case, and quashed rumors
or untruthful allegations regarding Haleigh or my client. I was careful with information,
and only released facts that I felt were appropriate for public dissemination, or that I felt needed
to be addressed in the best interest of my client. Again, whether to a news website,
a newspaper reporter, or to Nancy Grace herself, I was charged with giving truthful and accurate
information to the public regarding the status of the Haleigh Cummings case, and my client.
I was well known as a fierce advocate for Crystal Sheffield, and would not hesitate
to defend her credibility, reputation, ability to parent, and extreme state of grief over
her daughter’s disappearance. Crystal depended upon me for legal advice, emotional support,
security, and personal advice on every issue in her day to day life. I would have never
said or done anything to disparage or detract from her in the public eye, or elsewhere.
At no time did I ever give private or privileged information regarding Crystal Sheffield or
her case to the public or media. I was adamant about keeping the status of the DCF case extremely
confidential, and would not release any facts, witness names or any information whatsoever
to the media or public. I did not even divulge the caseworker’s name to the public or media,
as I did not want anything to impede the investigation into the welfare of Crystal’s children.
DCF officials have thanked me repeatedly for my discretion and ability to keep all information
about their investigation confidential, and prevent any leaks whatsoever to the media.
DCF officials often expressed their surprise that the status of their investigation was
just about the only aspect of the case that the media never could pry open.
In an the email exhibit attached to the Complaint wherein I spoke of information I had gotten
regarding Misty Croslin slapping the Ronald Junior in the back of the head, this information
had already been released to the media through the eye witness to the event. I had discussed
the incident on the news that evening. I had followed up with law enforcement in writing
regarding the incident to Det. Peggy Cone, as well as to the DCF caseworker, Bonnie Warner,
to ensure they were aware of the allegations. This was not new or novel information that
I was divulging to a blogger. Quite to the contrary, such claims had been the topic of
discussion in the media and the public at large. Further, Tammy Spratt, a/k/a Badme,
is a personal friend of mine. In a second email exhibit attached to the
Bar Complaint, I am conversing with Administrator, Kendall Clark (Pirate Girl), regarding my
own monitoring of rumors on the internet. The email references me “fighting with Ksue”.
Karen Simmer, a/k/a Ksue, is a well known blogger on the Blogger News Network Forum,
who has made false reports about me, and my clients to law enforcement, the Sherriff’s
Office, America’s Most Wanted, the FBI, as well as the FDLE. To be clear, I have never
blogged on Blogger News Network (BNN). Our office account for (BNN) is set up and registered
under “Lanie”, for which I can provide a status report reflecting no posts have ever
been made through that account. Never. All information confirmed to news or crime
website Administrators was in the best interest of my client, portrayed my client in the best
light possible, and was most often utilized quell allegations of criminal activity and
fraud on behalf of my client. If the internet buzzed with rumors, such topics were sure
to be a topic of discussion in the media within 24 hours, as all major media networks monitored
the internet for topics of public interest. Early on in the case, I presented information
to law enforcement that I my staff had gleaned over an internet news discussion board from
a local resident of Putnam County. The Captain of the Haleigh Task Force at the Putnam County
Sheriff’s Office confirmed to me on many occasions that he personally monitored the
internet for information, tips and leads in the case. Several Putnam County Detectives
informed me that the internet was a useful tool in their investigations, as many individuals
had relevant “inside” information, but were too intimidated to officially report
the same to the police. At some juncture during the case, Marie came into email contact with
Administrator Kendall Clark of The Garden Discussion Board. Kendall Clark and I were
no longer on good terms, due to several occasions wherein I had refused to give her sensitive
information about the case. Marie Griffis was given Kendall’s private email account
information for the purpose of reading every email we had ever exchanged between one another.
When I became aware of this sneaking behavior on the part of Marie, I immediately confronted
her with it, and told her that I had no issue with her reading all correspondence I had
ever written or received in the entire case. I received nearly fifty (50) emails per day
from members of the general public, expressing theories on the case, or sending well wishes
to Crystal. I responded personally to each individual in writing, as I knew they had
taken the time out of their day to write to me regarding their concern with the disappearance
of Haleigh Cummings. There were several individuals who wrote to me quite often, and many expressed
their gratitude to me for continuing to vigorously defend Crystal, the mother of a missing child.
As the spokesperson for the family, it was my job and my duty to update the media about
developments in the case of the missing child Haleigh Cummings, and the custody investigation
being handled by DCF. At no time did I ever divulge disparaging or confidential information
about my client’s background that was not appropriate. Of course, when one appears on
live television, there is no script or forewarning about questions that will be asked prior to
the interview. As such, it was my job to answer questions honestly, but throwing the best
possible light on my client. If there was information that I believed was confidential,
disparaging or would be inappropriate to divulge to the media, I would not comment, or state
that I could not answer the question. It is not possible to anticipate the questions that
will be asked during any given live interview. As the attorney and spokesperson for Crystal
Sheffield, I was under an obligation to make split second decisions about how to answer
questions to the media, which were, by the nature of “live television”, at my discretion.
I appeared in over twenty (20) interviews with, or on behalf of Crystal Sheffield. That
was what I was retained to do by the client. In each and every interview, I attempted to
turn the media and the public around; to resurrect the public image of Crystal, to inform the
public of the status of the case, and to answer questions about Crystal’s feelings and intentions.
Again, that was my job. By July, 2009, the majority of the media and public had a sympathetic
view of Crystal Sheffield. It was a slow and gradual process, but I believe that the majority
of the public who follow the Haleigh Cummings case have a positive outlook on Ms. Sheffield,
and her fitness as a parent. From the very beginning of the case, I requested
that the family and family friends not make media appearances, or give comments to the
press. This was due to the fact that their animosity toward Ronald Cummings had previously
resulted in family members and friends erupting to reporters, cursing, and present as vindictive.
Such public animosity took credence away from claims being made to DCF, and to any potential
modification of custody action Crystal may file in the circuit court in the future.
For example, when Crystal was confronted by Nancy Grace on live television about her prior
claim of a biased and corrupt paternity proceeding wherein she was never served with papers,
I stepped in and assisted my client with the answering of the question. I agreed that she
had been given proper due process, but that she was incapable, emotionally, of defending
herself in court. It was the best I could say under the circumstances. In each media
appearance, I was being called to the carpet regarding Crystal’s failure to remain involved
in the children’s lives, her failure to pay child support, and her history of drug
abuse. I fiercely defended her recovery from drug addiction, and was able to somehow turn
most of the country around with regard to their outlook on Crystal’s life and background.
I was requested by the family to continue appearing on media outlets, sometimes with
Crystal by my side, and other times alone. However, at all times, Crystal was well aware
of my media appearances, which were usually at the Haleigh Bug Center with her standing
by. The few appearances that I made on national television outside of the Satsuma area were
from Broward County, Florida, and were usually Tivo’ed by the family. I do not believe
I was under any obligation to “ask” Crystal about each interview that I undertook, as
we had specifically spoken on numerous occasions about her desire that I keep media attention
high as to the disappearance of Haleigh, and to rectify her public image. However, in nearly
all media appearances, Crystal was informed of media appearances before they took place,
conducted the interview with me, or was present at the time the interview was being conducted.
Marie Griffis directly defied my recommendations not to speak directly to the media. On one
occasion, an investigative reporter who I had come to know, called me and told me that
Marie had just done a live interview, and had publically chastised and insulted the
law enforcement team investigating the search for Haleigh. Although I could not persuade
the reporter to withhold the media footage, he agreed to edit her strong language toward
law enforcement officials, as a personal favor to me. Emails and Content Provided Upon Request.
Such public animosity and unbridled blame did not serve Crystal’s interests, or make
good impressions on the law enforcement team that were investigating Haleigh’s disappearance.
It was in Crystal’s interest, and in the interest of her missing daughter, that law
enforcement felt extreme empathy for Crystal and her family, so that they would want to
go the extra mile in investigating the child’s disappearance. However, no matter how much
I pleaded with the family and their close friends to stay off the media and the internet,
I was constantly putting out fires with regard to malicious statements and accusations being
made and publicated by them. Emails Provided Upon Request.
F. CHILD SUPPORT REDUCTION/TERMINATION I conferred with my client on numerous occasions
about her child support obligation. I informed her from the beginning of my representation
that her child support obligation could be decreased due to the fact that there only
remained one child to support in the Cummings household. Crystal had paid less than one
thousand dollars ($1.000) of her child support obligation since 2005. Itemization of Child
Support Payments to Disbursement Unit Provided Upon Receipt. Of course, in the initial months
of Haleigh’s disappearance, the last thing that I thought was appropriate would be to
seek a modification of child support based on the fact that one child had been abducted.
At all times, Marie Griffis felt we should file a court action lowering the amount Crystal
was to pay to Ronald Cummings for support. Such an action was, in my opinion, highly
inappropriate while investigators were still actively seeking to find little Haleigh and
bring her home safely. Further, I had meetings with Crystal and her
fiancé, Chad Griffis, regarding the child support issue. It was their desire and intention
to pay down the arrears, and not seek a modification of child support until a future date. Crystal
did not want to seek a modification of her support based upon Haleigh’s disappearance,
as she did not want to ever believe that her daughter was not alive, and coming home. Consequently,
Chad and Crystal had several discussions with me about paying down the child support arrears
in bulk, and knew a family member that could assist them with a loan for this purpose.
I also had an agreement with opposing counsel to revisit the child support issues due to
Haleigh’s disappearance and Crystal’s medical condition. Correspondence Provided
Upon Request. During the course of the my tenure as Crystal’s attorney, I have managed
to gradually create a public outpouring of support for this mother of a missing child,
who had lived in an abusive relationship with Ronald Cummings since the age of fourteen
(14). Through media appearances with Crystal, we were able to tell the public that she was
a struggling mother, who had made mistakes while she was young, but who desperately wanted
her children in her custody where they would be safe from their present abusive and dangerous
environment. I received an email from a lady by the name
of Barbara Johnson from Texas, who had seen my appearance regarding Crystal’s struggles
on the news one night. She wrote to me about how she was moved by Crystal’s story and
background and wanted to financially assist her. She represented that she wanted to pay
down Crystal’s child support arrears, as Ronald Cummings seemed to use her failure
to support the children over the years, as testament to her lack of interest in the children.
I exchanged several emails with Ms. Johnson, and over a course of weeks, she sent funds
to completely extinguish Crystal’s child support arrears. Correspondence and Documentary
Evidence Provided Upon Request. The total amount paid by Ms. Johnson toward Crystal’s
child support arrears was over $12,000. By July 1, 2009, Crystal Sheffield owed no child
support arrears whatsoever, due to the generous donor from Texas. For the first time since
2005, Crystal was no longer at risk of a contempt sanction by the Court.
In early June 2009, I commenced discussions with Ronald Cummings attorney regarding the
reduction of child support due to the number of children remaining in the home. Haleigh
had yet to be found, and I felt that it was not too early to discuss a temporary reduction
of child support. Further, I discussed other options with Crystal regarding child support.
We could seek a temporary termination of child support, due to her medical condition (seizures).
I asked Crystal to get a doctor’s note prohibiting driving and/or working while she was undergoing
tests to find the cause of her seizures. Although she attended doctor’s appointments, she
consistently forget to request such documentation from her medical caregivers. If she could
obtain a doctors written prohibition of driving, we could seek a temporary suspension of Crystal’s
child support obligation. Regardless of my constant reminders, both orally and in writing,
Crystal did not remember to ask her doctor for written recommendations in this regard.
Correspondence Provided Upon Request. On July 1, 2009, I once again called and wrote
to Crystal prior to going to a scheduled doctor’s appointment, and reminded her to get a doctor’s
written recommendation on work and/or driving. Finally, on July I, 2009, I received an email
from Marie Griffis from Crystal’s doctor, with illegible scribble, and a question mark
on the space provided for a date to return to work. Email Provided Upon Request. I could
not read the writing on the note, and neither could Marie or Crystal. I requested on numerous
occasions for them to call the doctor’s office and obtain a typed and signed recommendation
from the doctor, but I received no further communication from either Marie or Crystal
on this issue. Emails Provided Upon Request. I was extremely frustrated by the family’s
complete indifference to these issues, and their increasing lack of contact with me on
important matters in their case. It was difficult to obtain any information from them to deliver
to opposing counsel, who was patiently waiting for me to contact him on how we intended to
proceed on the child support issues. Marie Griffis continued to insist in sporadic
emails that I file a modification of custody action against Ronald Cummings. On one occasion,
I had arranged for the commencement of summer visitation with Crystal pursuant to the Agreed
Order entered by the Court. The child was to be picked up by Crystal Sheffield on a
date certain to commence his six (6) week summer visitation with his mother. Without
giving me any notice whatsoever, Marie Griffis arranged for law enforcement from two (2)
counties to search her property and home for Haleigh’s remains on the start date of summer
visitation between Crystal and her son. I awoke to telephone calls by the media, who
were demanding a comment on my client’s property being raided by over 40 law enforcement
agents, who were actively digging up the property with machinery, and divers were searching
the lakes and ponds for Haleigh’s remains. I was flabbergasted, and completely taken
off guard by Ms. Griffis’ arrangements. Opposing counsel, who was on vacation at the
time, called me frantically from his cell phone to cancel the commencement of summer
visitation due to the fact that law enforcement was tearing up my client’s property looking
for missing Haleigh’s body. Marie continued to take dramatic measures
and use self help throughout the case. These measures were not in the best interest of
Crystal, was an impediment to the orderly course of my job functions, and became unmanageable.
I believe as the attorney and spokesperson for the family, I should have been told of
Ms. Griffis’ plans and arrangements with law enforcement so that I could have forewarned
opposing counsel, and indirectly, the Father of the child, that the search was being done
at the invitation of Marie Griffis – not because law enforcement had credible information
that the child was buried on Crystal and Marie’s property. To make matters worse, I was shocked
to be sent an email by my staff, noting that Marie had written a “Tweet” on her Twitter
account, stating that she knew ahead of time about the search, but that “KP” did not.
Twitter by Marie Griffis to be Provided Upon Request.
After that time, it was clear that Crystal’s mother, Marie, was determined to disparage
me and my reputation. I attempted to speak with her on several occasions about our relationship,
but she assured me that everything was fine, and that she appreciated me continuing in
the case. Unfortunately, this was not true, and I became aware that Marie was posting
disparaging comments about me over the internet, and our relationship was irreparably damaged.
Gradually, I was spending more time in the Broward County area, and less time in Satsuma.
I was having daily telephone contact with both Marie and Crystal, until I recommended
against filing a custody modification action until we could see the results of Crystal’s
toxicology tests from the hospital after her car accident. At that juncture, their communications
with me became less, and I would leave messages for them that went unreturned for days.
In June, 2009, without my knowledge, Marie travelled to Satsuma and completely cleared
out the Haleigh Bug Center. She took every piece of furniture, every printer, file folder,
etc., and took the contents of the building to her farm in Glen St. Mary, Florida. I had
paid the rent, security deposit, and all utility bills on the Haleigh Bug Center for each month
from March through June, 2009, with the exception of one month paid by Marie with donations
from the public. All office items were taken by the family, and I have not seen or been
copied with any of the documents that were taken from the Haleigh Bug Center. Further,
I had hired Marie Griffis’ best friend to work at the Center as an employee. I had been
paying her for several weeks to keep track of tips, leads, and generally, to “keep
the doors open”. When Marie surprised us with an abrupt move-out of the Center, I gave
her friend, Jennifer, a week’s severance pay so that she could find alternate employment.
I believe one of the most humiliating moments in my life came when I received an email from
a complete stranger, bringing my attention to an email from Marie to a “blogger”
which was being distributed on major websites across the internet. Marie stated to a complete
stranger in the email that I had failed to file for custody of the child despite repeated
demands to do so, that I had only been on the case to seek fame, and that I had an affair
with a volunteer working at the Haleigh Bug Center, and that she was intent on making
Crystal angry enough to fire me. She requested that the blogger find out more incriminating
information against me, and stated she hoped to see me in jail from the allegations she
was giving law enforcement. See Email From Marie Griffis as Exhibit attached hereto.
CONCLUSION The last thing on my mind when I agreed to
take on this complicated, highly charged case was media attention for myself. In fact, I
had consistently cautioned the entire family about law enforcement’s desire that we curb
the media frenzy surrounding the case. I spent tens of thousands of dollars of my personal
funds in mounting a public awareness campaign to keep the search for missing child Haleigh
Cummings alive. I spent literally over one thousand hours working on the case, which
involved multiple issues, conflicts, and attacks against my personal reputation and integrity.
Despite being urged to quit the case by my colleagues, friends, and family, I stayed
in, through thick and thin, as I could not leave Crystal to fend for herself against
the vicious intrusions and reputation attacks she had endured in the past.
With regard to media appearances, I was encouraged by Crystal and her Mother, Marie Griffis,
to speak with every media outlet to ensure that Haleigh’s case did not become a cold
case file. Crystal insisted that we keep the media attention high to ensure Haleigh’s
search would not become a low priority for law enforcement. Crystal and I appeared together
many times on national and local news. Again, it was important for the family to raise Crystal’s
public image, to force the nation to appeal for a continued search on numerous media appearances
together. During the course of the case, I learned many difficult lessons. In an effort
to aid and advocate for a mother of a missing child, I devoted my time, my staff, my energy,
and my own family’s funds. My client and her family had high expectations regarding
results in the case involving custody of Ronald, Jr. that I did not feel comfortable bringing
forward to the Court. I spent over $70,000 of my personal funds fighting and defending
Crystal Sheffield and looking for her missing daughter, Haleigh. I never asked for a thing
in return. My only contact with Ms. Sheffield after my
tenure on the case has been by a summarizing correspondence recapping the case, as well
as one telephone message to ask her if she needed emergency assistance after Ronald Cummings
was recently arrested. I have made no other contact attempts to Ms. Sheffield, or any
other member of her family. It should be noted that to date, Crystal Sheffield’s
new attorney, Carol Caldwell, Esquire, has not filed a Supplemental Petition for Modification
of Custody or for a request for a Modification and/or Termination of Child Support. She has
been retained as the family lawyer for Crystal Sheffield for nearly two (2) months.
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