ACQUITTED: Grief-Stricken Father Whose Son Died Following Custody Battle Beats Charges of ‘Malicious’ Social Media Posts
Grieving father Jonathan Vanderhagen, who was thrown in jail with a $500,000 bond after making social media posts exposing a judge he blames for taking away his now-deceased son, was acquitted today on all charges in a Macomb County, Mich. courtroom.
Big League Politics reported on this case last week, and it has gained national attention due to its unconstitutional and overreaching implications. Vanderhagen’s lawyer, Nicholas Somberg, made the announcement that his client was exonerated today on social media.
“I asked in my closing for a QUICK Not Guilty to send a message to the prosecutor that this was WRONG,” Somberg declared in a Facebook post.
“Jury deliberated for 26 minutes and 8 seconds … Jonathan Vanderhagen is FREE!!!” he added.
Earlier in the day, Somberg noted that Vanderhagen took the stand and gave testimony about his painful ordeal. There was “not a dry eye in the room” as Vanderhagen talked about the pain of losing a young daughter and then being punished by the courts for speaking out about what had happened.
Vanderhagen was given an opportunity to take a plea deal and avoid trial, but refused to admit guilt to a crime he did not believe he committed. He was eventually vindicated by a jury of his own peers, who affirmed his right to free speech in the court of law earlier today.
The nightmare began for Vanderhagen after he lost a custody battle for his son over two years ago, and then his son died shortly after while in his mother’s custody. He had warned the court about the mother’s history of unstable behavior, but his pleas were ultimately ignored by Judge Rachel Rancilio and the court referee. Vanderhagen believes their decision was ill-advised and possibly led to his son’s untimely death.
Vanderhagen expressed his anguish on social media afterward, assigning blame toward Judge Rancilio for her role in the custody hearing. As a result, Rancilio complained about her safety, and the Macomb County Sheriff’s office charged Jonathan with malicious use of telecommunications services to protect her from Vanderhagen’s free speech.
Rancilio tried to garner sympathy in the court room earlier in the week by claiming on the stand that she received numerous death threats because of Vanderhagen’s social media posts. Rancilio had hoped an example would be made of Vanderhagen so the little people would know the consequences that resulted from speaking ill of the kritarchy.
“It wasn’t just one post,” she said while attempting to produce crocodile tears. “It was a compilation of it all. … I was scared something was going to happen to myself, my children.”
“The death threats I’ve been getting as a result of this stuff is horrifying. I’m terrified. It continues to this day,” she added.
Rancilio’s sentiments were ultimately rejected by the jury, who found that Vanderhagen’s 1st Amendment rights were more important than her subjective feelings.
While Vanderhagen’s life has been harmed substantially because of a court system desperate to shield its own, justice was finally served today with a victory for whistle-blowers against judicial tyranny nationwide.