A woman was arrested earlier this month for violating provisions of an Emergency Protection From Abuse Order issued against her after she allegedly assaulted her son, but those charges were later dismissed by a judge after the boy’s father and the police failed to attend her court hearing on the matter. The boy’s father complained, saying he and the officers who arrested his ex-wife did not even receive a court notice of the hearing date until after it was already over. Rather than scheduling a public proceeding to determine what went wrong and if corrective action should be taken, the court conducted a private investigation into itself, concluding it did nothing improper and ruling the woman’s charges would remain dismissed.
Jim Moore alleges he and his teenage son were effectively denied full and fair access to the court system of Beaver County because his ex-wife Kimberly Moore has a personal relationship with Court Administrator Richard DeFilippi.
On September 7th, Jim Moore went to Magisterial District Judge Tim Finn’s office in Brighton Township to file for an Emergency Protect From Abuse Order (PFA) against his ex-wife Kimberly Moore on behalf of his young teenage son, who the Beaver Countian will call Adam (not his real name). Adam had gotten into trouble at school and was sent home on suspension, where he alleges his mother Kimberly Moore became physically abusive and threatening.
“Kimberly, my former wife, pushed our son during an argument at her residence,” wrote Jim Moore in his application to District Judge Finn. “As a result, he fell or was pushed down her inside steps. Although my son was not injured, his mother has threatened other physical and verbal abuse.”
Jim and Kimberly share joint custody of their son and it was her week to have Adam. District Judge Finn issued an Emergency Protection From Abuse Order directing Kimberly to have no contact with the boy, overriding the custody agreement and sending Adam home with his father.
In a lengthy interview with the Beaver Countian, Kimberly Moore said she was extremely upset at her son that day, admitting she laid hands on him but denying she pushed him down the stairs.
“He told me he wanted to go live with his father from now on,” said Kimberly. “I grabbed him and I shook him, I said what the hell’s wrong with you, I’m going to call your bluff, you want to go live with your dad, you can go live with your dad […] I sat in the bathtub literally catching vomit in my hands.”
The next day on September 8th, Beaver Police filed charges against Kimberly Moore alleging she twice committed indirect criminal contempt of court (ICC) by having contact with Adam in direct violation of District Judge Finn’s order. Kimberly does not deny she had contact with her son the day after being ordered not to.
“I went over to Jim’s house that morning and [Adam] was there with his grandmother who was out walking,” Kimberly told the Beaver Countian. “[Adam] came to door and opened it, he looked ashen […] I left and took [Adam] straight to the police department in Beaver. The cop said to me, Kim, I think there’s still a PFA against you, he told me we had to go to Magistrate Tim Finn’s office.”
That is when Kimberly Moore said she began reaching out to a man she refers to as “a good friend who I give allergy shots to,” Beaver County Court Administrator Richard DeFilippi.
“I told my mom to call Rich to find out if the PFA still existed,” said Kimberly. “She left a message for him, by that time my mom had driven to the Magistrate and was waiting outside.”
Kimberly said she and her son went into the courtroom.
“I had my cellphone sitting there, I was worried they were going to take me to jail,” said Kimberly. “I called and talked to Rich, I said listen they’re going to put me in jail, he said I will call Magistrate Finn.”
“She’s on the phone with him saying, Rich, I’m in court, Rich I need your help,” Adam told the Beaver Countian.
“[Judge] Finn walked out of the room to get the phone, he came back in and was pissed off, very pissed off,” continued Kimberly.
Magisterial District Judge Tim Finn declined to provide comment to the Beaver Countian about the content of the phone call he received from Court Administrator Richard DeFilippi as Kimberly Moore and her son were in his court.
“[Judge Finn] said there is something seriously wrong with this family,” recalled Kimberly, “he told me he already made his mind up before Mr. DeFilippi called him and he said he wasn’t going to be manipulated by anybody and I’m going to jail.”
“The judge was not happy Rich called him and he was not happy with my mom,” said Adam, who has not had contact with his mother since that day.
Magisterial District Judge Tim Finn took the matter seriously, determining his emergency PFA order remained in effect and placing Kimberly Moore in jail on two secured bonds of $10,000 each.
Adam told the Beaver Countian he has known Richard DeFilippi for about two years, after first being introduced to the man by his mother. “He’s over my mom’s house a lot,” said the boy, who repeatedly referred to DeFilippi as his mother’s “boyfriend.” “He picks me up from school sometimes and he brings my mom food.”
The Beaver Countian was provided with what are said to be screenshots of text messages from Adam’s cellphone, showing conversations between him and his mother which included one from December of last year, “Rich bringing hot dogs,” one from July, “Tell rich to bring arbies (sic),” and one from August 2nd, “Rich gave me a ride home.” The number appearing on the text messages matches the one the Beaver Countian used to reach Kimberly Moore by phone.
Jim Moore also said he has known who Richard DeFilippi was for about two years, after seeing a paper for the school that showed his ex-wife added the man’s name to a list of those authorized to pick him up.
Kimberly told the Beaver Countian her relationship with Richard DeFilippi is strictly platonic and her son was wrong to use the word “boyfriend” in describing it. Kimberly said she knows DeFilippi to be happily married and she has a longtime boyfriend of her own, “the only physical contact I have had with that man is a hug, that’s it […] he’s like a father to me […] [Adam] knows about my friendship with Mr. DeFilippi, he knows that he gave me furniture out of his dad’s house when his dad died and they sold the house […] I have also used him as a reference, because of who he is and where he worked it would help me get a job.”
She also acknowledged signing paperwork for the school allowing DeFilippi to pick up her son on occasion, saying she had very few other people in her life that she trusted.
Kimberly Moore eventually bonded out of jail and Jim Moore contacted Beaver Police to see what the next steps would be with her case. “They told me that they would get a notice from the court with a hearing date and I would get a notice and they would call me,” said Jim.
With Kimberly now out on bond and it being his week to have custody of Adam, Jim said he never went to court to seek a temporary PFA to extend the emergency PFA which had expired following her arrest. “She couldn’t have contact with my son because of her bond, so I was going to have my attorney file for a modified custody order instead of getting another PFA, because I did not think PFAs were supposed to be used for custody arrangements,” he told the Beaver Countian.
Time progressed without incident until the morning of September 15th. Unbeknownst to Adam who was in school, Jim who was at work, or the Beaver Police who were not in the courthouse, Kimberly Moore was sitting in President Judge John D. McBride’s courtroom waiting for her PFA violation hearing to begin.
“When I got out of jail I didn’t even get a notice about the hearing,” Kimberly told the Beaver Countian. “The Court Admin’s Office told me the hearing was set for Thursday at 8:30am, that’s how I knew to be there.”
With only Kimberly Moore and her attorney present for court, President Judge John D. McBride dismissed the indirect criminal complaint that had been filed against her by police for allegedly violating provisions of an Emergency Protection From Abuse order. It was not until Jim Moore came home from work and checked the mail he received a letter from the courthouse delivered that afternoon informing him Kimberly Moore’s PFA hearing was scheduled for that morning. The Beaver Police also received their notice after the hearing was already over.
The Beaver Countian was first contacted by Jim Moore the following morning on Friday, September 16th at 6:45am via Facebook. “I’m headed to the court administrator’s office this morning to file a PFA against my son’s mother and against Rich Defilippi (the court administrator),” he wrote.
The Beaver Countian met the man at the courthouse where he explained his situation and stated his concern that he was being denied proper access to the courts. This publication shadowed him and his son as they again worked their way through the system.
Jim Moore went into the PFA Office and filled out an application for a new PFA against his ex-wife on behalf of his son. While there, he learned that he was not eligible to file for a PFA against DeFilippi because such motions of court can only be filed against spouses or ex-spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, or current or former intimate partners. Moore said DeFilippi had never done anything to harm his son or threaten him in any way, but feared his ex-wife would try to use the man as an intermediary — conduct which would already be prohibited by a PFA if issued against the boy’s mother.
As the Beaver Countian waited for Jim and Adam to be taken into the courtroom, Commissioner Sandie Egley introduced herself to the two and later sat in court to observe the proceedings — Egley has been a vocal critic of Court Administrator Richard DeFilippi, Domestic Relations Director Joe Signore, and President Judge John McBride (the three of whom are considered by those in the courthouse to be extremely close longtime friends).
Jim Moore and his son appeared before before President Judge John McBride — the same judge who had dismissed Kimberly Moore’s indirect criminal contempt charges — seeking to have the temporary PFA issued.
Unprompted, Judge McBride told Jim Moore he was aware of allegations that he had not been provided with proper notice about Kimberly’s violation hearing. “If there’s a failure in the court system I am going to look into that,” he said. “I am going to look into that personally.”
Jim Moore told the judge he had relevant information pertaining to what had occurred in relation to his ex-wife’s criminal contempt case, but President Judge McBride prevented him from providing any explanation. The judge issued the temporary PFA against Kimberly Moore and told the man a hearing was scheduled before Judge Richard Mancini on Thursday, September 22nd.
This time around all of the parties were present as the new PFA hearing date arrived. The Beaver Countian was in court to observe the proceedings, Jim Moore and his son were at courthouse represented by their attorney Max Feldman, Kimberly Moore was present with her attorney Steven Valsamidis, the Beaver Police were there as well. The parties agreed to postpone the hearing until December 15th and agreed that the temporary PFA would remain in effect until then. Jim Moore told the Beaver Countian he planned to use that time to attempt to gain full custody of his son, and that he would wait to hear back about the dismissed indirect criminal contempt charges against Kimberly which he felt should be reinstated due to lack of notice.
Jim Moore’s answer came later that same day, when he received a “memorandum” in the mail from President Judge John McBride, notifying him that an investigation conducted at his direction by an unnamed investigator had been completed.
In his letter, Judge McBride claimed that Kimberly Moore appeared in court for her original criminal contempt hearing “after having received the mailed notices” from the court (an assertion directly contradicted by Moore in her interview with the Beaver Countian). Judge McBride acknowledged that the Beaver Police and Jim Moore did not receive their notices until after the hearing had occurred, but determined the court had mailed out those notices in a timely fashion and in a manner consistent with its standard procedures.
President Judge John D. McBride ultimately determined any fault which occurred in this case may very well rest with Jim Moore for not taking additional legal action against his ex-wife.
“If anything, the fault lies in the failure of the Petitioner, himself, to seek a Temporary PFA Order before 4:30 p.m. on September 8, 2016 (which also would have been scheduled for hearing on September 15, 2016, with personal notice to him, or with the U.S. Postal Service, which took four (4) days to deliver four (4) notices a distance of two (2) blocks. Because I find no breakdown in the Court’s system, the two (2) Dismissal Orders of September 15, 2016 are confirmed and final.”
Jim Moore told the Beaver Countian that President Judge John McBride’s investigator, whomever he or she may be, never even attempted to contact him before issuing a final conclusion. The man said he firmly believes Judge McBride is protecting Court Administrator Richard DeFilippi, “even if it’s true the Court Administrator’s Office didn’t delay sending out the notices and it was a mistake I didn’t receive them in time, I think the only reason I was never contacted by the investigator, the judge didn’t give us a hearing, and the charges remain dismissed, is because of Kim’s relationship with the Court Administrator.”
The Beaver Countian spoke with several attorneys who practice law in Beaver County about the matter, none of whom had ever heard of a judge conducting a private investigation into a case rather than holding an official court proceeding on issues surrounding a dismissal. The attorneys also said they have never heard of a judge using an unnamed investigator to gather his own facts and not permit the parties to provide information or argument of their own for consideration, or of a judge issuing a final order on the dismissal of charges in the form of an informal memorandum — the attorneys all agreed to speak to the Beaver Countian about their experiences with local courts on condition they not be quoted by name criticizing the President Judge of Beaver County.
Beaver County Court Administrator Richard DeFilippi was unavailable when the Beaver Countian attempted to meet with him in the courthouse. DeFilippi did not return messages seeking comment left for him in the Court Administrator’s Office and with his personal secretary.