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Juan was called over as well as Mark Sylvester, Anne Connors, and Zoe Daniels. This was a serious meeting and one in which the family was calling in the big guns for support. The three DCF social workers were new to Juan but their relationship to the family was strong thus they had clout, Melanie and Dan needed their help right away and Juan needed their blessing that he was in the clear.
Anne made a phone call on DCF's behalf to New York to get more information about the intent to remove Julio especially since the allegations allegedly took place in Massachusetts. The whole call was filled with angry outburst from her counterpart to which she happily told the man on the other end to place his supervisor on the phone or he himself would have to explain his behavior towards a colleague in an adjacent state who would be handling the actual handover and would be required by law to investigate the allegation as it allegedly occurred in her jurisdiction. This didn't move the man so Anne added that Massachusetts would refuse to allow Julio to be removed and would go to the court to ensure that he was allowed to stay with his aunt and uncle until New York provided evidence to support their removal and a full investigation was conducted by them.
The mention of the court caused a commotion which Anne knew to be them trying to cover their tracks. She whispered to Mark "they are using bad information that they know to be false. This is supposed to have happened up here, why are they doing something and not us? It smells fishy and like an inside job." He agreed, adding "there isn't any connection between the two so it had to come from only a couple of sources- his family, his coworker, or his secretary. The latter two are under close watch by the feds, so it had to have been Juan's family."
Anne finally got a supervisor on the phone and was given the details of the complaint. It was as expected, Juan was claimed to have sexually abused Julio during his stay in Massachusetts. They provided details of when and where it allegedly happened. The timing was laughable, they had only had a short period of time together and it was under the direct oversight of Melanie, Valerie, the Johnsons, and the teens watching. The times it was supposed to have happened was even funnier, he was in Chicago those times and Julio was with the Johnsons and Melanie or Dan.
She had to fight a laugh then told them firmly "I know for a fact that these allegations are false as he has multiple witnesses that were present for the only meetings he has had with Julio Lopez since they parted ways 11 days ago. My own daughter is an eyewitness as are the daughters of my colleague and the local chief of police. All other times during that period he has been working at home, in his new office, or been at his uncle's home. From Sunday night to Friday afternoon he wasn't even in Massachusetts- he was in Chicago with a half dozen witnesses including the assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts so please, by all means, tell me exactly how he was abusing Julio Lopez as the facts do not add up! I won't even bother trying to ask about why you never informed us about the allegations, I believe I know exactly why you were contacted and not us."
There was a pause as they scurried to find the notes about the alleged abuse. There was little actual evidence, it was all allegations that were phoned in from a Massachusetts number. Anne grinned and knew she had them firm.
She pointed out authoritatively "I know exactly who made the allegations and you need to know the truth: the people who made them are Juan Perez's estranged relatives. He has severed all ties with his family due to his mother threatening the life of his friend. His friend is a lesbian, and out of the kindness of his heart, he opened up his new home to her and her two children to live. Funny thing about that, the Perez/Castillo relatives never bothered to lodge a complaint about them. There is a reason for that, we know exactly what is happening and why and would have intervened directly. They went to you, hoping you would be naive enough to believe a false claim which you have shown that you did."
She had to calm herself then added "as we know this allegation is false and know the origin to be based on payback against the man we will file a motion in our court to prevent your department from removing Julio Lopez. Further Mr. Perez is well within his rights to sue your department for slander as you have shown that you don't bother investigating claims before you take action."
There was more yelling and fighting while Anne waited for them to figure out what to do. Anne gave them the fax number to send their rescind order or to send their demand that Julio is brought to New York. Juan would have to go to clear his name but he was not going alone- this called for the full might of the family. Valerie was going, as were her parents. That left Melanie and Dan to look after the kids after school until John got home.
Mark was going south on behalf of the state to fight for Julio's right to stay. Evelyn and Joseph had everything possible to fight including statements from Ricardo, Willie, Kennedy, David, Gabby, Zeke, John, Patrick, and Linda. Jorge asked to go as well, not wanting to let his nephew go this alone and to state exactly what was going on with his nieces and nephews.
The clan left and two hours later were in New York City. They weren't wasting time, they had a meeting scheduled with a New York attorney to act on their behalf as they couldn't represent themselves in court. The man simply looked at the evidence, the statements, then the custodial agreement and agreed that it was pure fantasy against Juan. Nothing made sense and there were too many people with upstanding reputations stating it never happened.
They got a long night's sleep but turning in for the night Jorge made a few phone calls that he knew would be needed. The statements were all well and good but they needed people who knew exactly what was going on and why and would point out exactly who the mastermind was and why they were doing what they did. Julio needed their help and while they may have issues with Juan abandoning them they weren't cruel enough to take it out on an innocent child especially one who had been through a living hell already.
In the morning the group drove to the family court building in the Bronx. They were met outside by Dan and Melanie who refused to let this slide, they would be there to refute all claims against Juan as they, Valerie, and the Johnsons were with Julio all times especially when he was near Juan. There was little reason to refuse their say as the hearsay was not supported by eyewitnesses.
Jorge waited outside for his people, the others knew not to question his motives but Juan suspected one of his relatives was about to make an appearance and accept responsibility for the actions of others. He knew just who it would be and was grateful that they were doing the right thing even if they didn't like what Juan was doing with his life. They had issues but would not take it out on a child to get at him.
Inside the group met the social services representatives from New York and were about to go at one another when a bailiff intervened and ushered them inside. Juan's lawyer was by his side with Juan steeling himself for what may come. Dan and Melanie assured him he was alright as did Valerie.
The judge entered and asked for the information about the case. Social services presented their information followed by Juan's lawyer who then added that he had multiple eyewitnesses and accounts that refute all of the claims by social services. The judge saw Jorge enter with three people then observed Juan, the Johnsons, Valerie, Dan, Melanie, and Mark looking angry and ready to verbally joust with the social services representatives.
The judge asked their relevance to the case, being told "theses people are all direct witnesses to Mr. Perez's actions all of whom refute the claims by the Perez/Castillo family, the people who made the allegation of abuse. We also have sworn statements from multiple additional witnesses who are unable to attend but have directly refuted all claims against Mr. Perez as they were with him during times the alleged abuses occurred. They are all aware of the seriousness of the crimes and swear under penalty of perjury that their statements are true."
The judge asked where the child was. Juan's lawyer smirked and explained, "he is attending school this morning." The judge tried to say something about his not being present to which Mark shot back "your honor I am here on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to state that we are set to bring action in federal court against our colleagues in New York for this egregious miscarriage of justice and abuse of the system. As you can read in their statements New York is attempting to use a crime that allegedly happened in Massachusetts, that was never reported to us or any law enforcement agency in our state, to remove a child from his next of kin without so much as a hearing. We will refuse all attempts to remove Julio Lopez from Melanie and Daniel Lopez's care until such time as the crime is proven to have occurred and we prosecute. As it allegedly occurred in Massachusetts we will investigate and we will then determine if he is to be removed- not you."
The judge asked the social services workers about the truth of that to which they state they were informed of the crime and that it occurred in New York. The judge grinned, then asked if they had supporting evidence to which they produced statements from Juan's mother, younger brother, and younger sister. Juan's lawyer grinned then added they had committed perjury with proof of their lies as they had different statements faxed to them that said it all occurred in Massachusetts.
Jorge shook his head then stated to the judge "your honor should know that my sister, niece, and nephew are all facing criminal charges in regards to actions taken this past Friday evening against Juan which were witnessed by multiple people. Juan has three witnesses to the plotting of the actual crimes of which include perjury and assault. This is pure retaliation and my nieces here can state that at no point did the crimes occur and are pure fantasy by Juan's own family."
The judge asked where Juan was on the previous Monday, getting a quick "Chicago, at his home and the FBI Chicago office." Valerie then added "I was with Juan from Sunday afternoon until Friday night. We were part of several lawsuits that were taken out against his former law firm, his former coworker, Cook County Medical Center, and a divorce on behalf of his close friend. He was witness to multiple criminal actions against himself as well as a serious civil rights violation against the daughter of his close friend. This same friend is the reason for his mother, sister, and brother going after him."
The judge asked why she believed that to which Valerie happily shot back "his friend had her life threatened by his mother, stating that she'd be killed if he didn't get rid of her. Juan refused so she threatened her again. The woman had done nothing to her. Mrs. Perez's issue was her sexuality, she didn't want her son to live with a lesbian and when he refused she threatened her prompting action by my husband and the Winnisimmet Police Department. She is currently in jail awaiting trial for criminal threats, assaulting a police officer, and resisting arrest."
Mark then added "your honor we are aware of Mrs. Perez's relationship with Mr. Perez and he stated that he refused any contact with her in the future the first night he arrived back in Winnisimmet so she had no reason to call him except to intimidate him. This is now a pattern of harassment by her." The judge agreed, letting it go.
The judge then asked about Julio getting a glowing report from Mark. Mark stated "due to be a neighbor I had the honor of observing Julio during several days last week while out with my son and neighboring children. I had observed him directly the previous Sunday as Juan and several others made plans to go to Chicago and there was no intimidation, no fear, and no anxiety. Compared with his first nights two nights before that night he was a new person. He is thriving under the care of his aunt and uncle and has taken to the neighboring children as close friends. There is little reason to believe that he is in danger nor is there any evidence that he has been abused by anyone except the system."
The judge asked about school to which Melanie stated "he has some issues with other kids but his teacher believes that it is nerves due to being new and experiencing new children without the kids acting like the other kids have acted towards him before. He is trying to adjust but it doesn't happen overnight and will take time."
The judge asked what she meant to which Valerie explained "your honor, he was forced by girls in his daycare to wear girls' clothing to play with them. This is the basis for his grandparents assaulting him and caused intense fear and anxiety towards other kids and anyone of authority. The more he has been around other kids his own age and he sees that he doesn't have to do that the more he is acting like a normal boy. He is starved for friendship and attention, he is getting it from his classmates and my nephew, JD Finn."
The judge wrote down something then asked about the abuse by the Lopezes. Social services stated that as per a plea bargain they were heading to prison for four years each for assault on a minor. Valerie showed the reports from the doctors with pictures then added "he hasn't opened up about the abuse but he has slowly learned that he isn't going to be hit for not doing things right. The abuse has left scars on his psyche but they are slowly healing as he gets used to being among family."
The judge read it over then asked about Julio's parents. Dan stated "my twin brother Hector is dead, dying from a drug overdose four years ago. His girlfriend dumped Julio on my parents when he was a few weeks old then ran off elsewhere. They never got her name, only knowing that Hector impregnated her and she couldn't keep Julio any longer. My sisters all refuse to help after Hector burned all bridges with them. Melanie and I are the only family he has left." The judge nodded, Dan was the only relative who cared about Julio anymore and had done everything right for him since he was placed with them.
The judge finally asked for a direct account of where Juan was at the times listed in the claims to show for the record that he was innocent. Juan grinned as he pointed out "the first time I was with my cousins, all five of them. You can ask Special Agent Vincent or Chief Pena if you don't believe me."
The judge thought he was lying but Jorge added "Alex is my son-in-law and Willie is my son. I was there as well, he stayed the first two nights with my wife and I and I heard him tell my sister to leave him alone. He stayed in his new home from Friday until Monday again with his friend's family."
The others were backed up by Valerie who included exact docket numbers for the lawsuits that Juan filed at the times the abuses were claimed as well as Mark stating he was there with Dan or Melanie or Stacy and Scott. Melanie had to counter any claims about Scott by saying she trusted him fully and he had proven to be a model big brother to both boys and as Stacy's fiance he was part of Julio's life now.
The last times were directly refuted by Jorge's guests. The three women were his youngest sister and the wives of two of his cousins. All three were there for the planning of the claims and refused to take part in it and even tried to send reports to the New York social services that they were false. That got the judge to ask for proof of which they showed the actual emails.
The social services workers tried to say they never received them but the replies were included which were from one of them. The judge grinned then tossed out all claims based on falsehoods and knowingly attempting to remove a child from proper care based on a verified lie. He then asked the bailiff to take one into custody for perjury, adding "your language belied your true intent. I won't allow someone to use this court to cause undue duress to a child because you have homophobic feelings."
Instead of dismissing them the judge asked to see the copy of the adoption application. He then had the clerk write out one for New York and granted the adoption of Julio to Dan and Melanie. His words were fitting, stating "you two didn't have to be here but you stood up for a man who needed help and showed that you cared more about others than yourselves. You actually wanted to help your son, not just house him. There is little reason to delay the inevitable, he doesn't need it. Congratulations."
The group left with Juan and his relatives talking outside. He listened to what they had to say, then told them "you can stay at the house and will sign a lease to stay there. I can't charge you much but it'll be enough to cover the taxes and fees. The others go. The kids need a home and I don't want the house. Only you are allowed to live there with your kids. If I find out that you all are housing the others you are out too. Consider it a second chance, you earned it."
His sister and cousins agreed. It was the best they would get and they would have their own rooms so the kids weren't crammed together four to a room. His cousin would lose a wife but her kids would have a place to live which mattered most. She'd recover and they'd be better off without their dad.
Jorge was pleased that he had done that for them, hugging him for being more man than his brother and cousins ever would be. Juan hated that it had come to being so bitter but it needed to be done. They showed their true colors, they did what was right when it mattered most. Jorge smiled up at the sky as he thanked his brother-in-law for teaching some of them right.
Their flight home was quick and saw them greeted at the airport by the family. Julio was concerned that they had gone off to New York and that they had news for him but the adults assured him he was alright. JD kept close to him all day, knowing that he wasn't going anywhere as well as being the one he could turn to for support when Julio needed it.
At home, the assembled Finn/Peterson/Jones/Lopez family were told there had been some things that happened down in New York that involved Julio. Julio was asked to sit with Melanie and Dan then shown a large piece of paper with his name one it. Immediately all had smiles on their faces as they knew it was something important to all of them.
Dan showed it to Julio then read it, stating "it is the decree of this court that Julio Lopez is adopted by Daniel John and Melanie Elizabeth Lopez." He hugged Julio, then told him "you are our son now, not our nephew." Julio cried and proclaimed "mommy, daddy" to both as he hugged them.
The family slunk away, allowing the five Lopezes to have their moment together. JD asked if Julio really was his cousin now, getting a happy "he sure is." JD smiled, Julio got what he needed and he wouldn't leave them no matter what.
Julio was crying after everyone left. DJ kept hugging him with Stacy and Rebecca unsure what to do as they watched their brothers embrace with Julio shedding tear after tear. Both decided he needed more assurances and hugged him, getting the same cry but no sobbing or wailing.
Dan and Melanie had to usher the four to dinner with Julio being taken to the bathroom to clean his face. He hugged Melanie tight, with Melanie hugging him back and telling him they loved him. He softly asked if he could call her mommy to which she smiled and replied: "it would be odd to call your mother Aunt Melanie, wouldn't it?" He smiled at that, it was the last issue he had. He just needed to hear it from her that she was his new mother.
Melanie stopped and happily told him "you now have a brother, two sisters, two future brothers-in-law, 12 cousins, two cousins-in-law, four future cousins-in-law, two uncles, a grandmother and grandfather, and three aunts. We all love you and want what is best for you. You are never going to be alone again, we care deeply about you and none of us will ever let you harm come to you."
The two entered the kitchen for dinner with the others not making mention of their talk. Julio finished and went to play with DJ while being told he still had school in the morning. He just smiled at that, he was looking forward to telling his teacher he had a new mom and seeing his two new cousins again.
In the morning Melanie and Dan drove to the school and made the final changes to Julio's records which now reflected his new parents. Dan and Melanie kissed him goodbye with his teacher asking what was going on. Melanie happily admitted "his adoption was finalized yesterday, he is now our son." She understood it as the honeymoon period of parenthood and left it at that, starting the day.
JD and Cat hugged Julio and called him cousin. Their teacher was surprised by that, Cat explained: "he's our cousin, our mommies are sisters." She had a big smile with JD and Julio nodded, she hadn't known that Melanie was related to Valerie and John but it explained why Cat and JD's great-aunt picked them up from school the day before with barely a glance from Lindsay Reagan or Katie Eliza.
With the others being told that they were cousins the boys started to include Julio in their games and played with him during breaks allowing Julio to start to show his worth to the boys as he played right along with them without any of their suspected feminine tendencies from having played with the girls the previous two days. JD was with him doing the same, with the boys now seeing that JD was just another boy despite having a twin sister and frequently playing with Cat and Willow. It was the first time Julio felt included and he loved that feeling, for once he had a sense of normalcy in his life.
After school, the kids eagerly awaited their pickup. Tyler Reagan happily played with Julio and caught the eyes of boys in Julio's class who didn't know he knew Julio. JD told them Tyler lived behind them so he played quite a bit with him which brought more interest to Julio and JD.
Tanya York picked up Julio to bring him to the daycare while she and Melanie finished up work for the day. Virgil wasn't too happy to go with them but Julio saw why, Trinity Eliza had ballet and couldn't play with him meaning he had to sit with his mom for a bit while they finished up their work. Tanya taking Julio brought a surprise as the other parents didn't know that she was one of Melanie's business partners in the daycare let alone friends so Julio was now getting a lot of attention from the parents in addition to the kids in his class.
It was going great for Julio. He now had everything in place for a good life and friends in Cat, JD, and Willow. He was truly happy which Tanya and her other business partners, Leslie Sylvester and Lupe Toro, could tell was due to things finally going his way in life.
By contrast to Julio's successes, Linda hit a roadblock. The judge who was to hear the name change for Ella refused to allow a summary change despite the evidence that she was not a boy. He refused to believe that there was a mistake and threatened to have her arrested for mutilating her son if she didn't stop seeking surgery for Ella.
Ricardo let him talk himself into a corner then countered with every single legal argument, precedent, and enough irrefutable case law to shoot down every single one of his accusations. Further, he added that he would appeal any ruling against Linda and would ensure that the judge was disciplined for blatantly ignoring jurisprudence in his actions. He waited for a response but didn't get one. The judge ruled against Linda and ordered the removal of Ella from Linda's care.
Watching from the side was Judge Perez, the judge who had unfortunately been in front of Ricardo and many others over the past year. She listened as her colleague tossed aside every argument and acted like he was above the law and that the laws didn't matter to him no matter how well supported Ricardo's legal arguments were. She sighed and called the chief judge, explained what she had just witnessed, then added "they will cause an uproar based on what they have presented as there is no legal right for him to do any of what he ordered especially as it goes directly against the best interests of the child he is claiming to be protecting.."
The chief judge agreed, called the clerk to have the verdict set aside per order of him, then had the case refiled with Judge Perez being assigned the case. The presiding judge was then handed a memo and swore in open court causing the clerk to state on the record that the case was being set aside by order of the chief judge of the trial court and that it would be reheard under a new judge with the current judge being reassigned to new duties in the trial court. Ricardo told Linda to stay put, he knew who was replacing him and it was the best possible thing to happen to them.
As expected Judge Perez entered and immediately heard the evidence. She laughed at the incompetence of the doctors out in Chicago as well as understanding the need for the change of name. She listened to everything then stated "based on the evidence provided Eliot Brown never existed. Ella Brown was born and raised and as such, she should have the right to be called that. This isn't up for debate, this was as simple acceptance of medical evidence that undid an injustice done to a child by lazy or incompetent people. My colleague has no business in family and probate court thus will be reassigned to one of the district courts elsewhere. He has pissed away his career but he did this to himself."
Grinning she stated "pursuant to the medical opinion of experts it is the order of this court that Eliot Brown be legally known from henceforth as Ella Brown. Further that her gender is hereby ordered to be recognized as female. I am going to send an immediate order to Cook County to recognize her as female and reissue her a birth certificate in her real gender. If they have an issue what that they will have to explain why. I understand they are in a bit of trouble already so it had better happen lest they have to answer why they are refusing to do so."
She issued Linda the order, apologizing for her colleague's antics, then adding "DCF would have never complied with the order. It would have been easily overturned on appeal by Mr. Sylvester and Mrs. Connors and I have little doubt that Mr. Ramirez wouldn't have had every member of your new family with him to protect your daughter. Enjoy them, they are a treasure to our state."
The two drove to the school to show Yvette the official order allowing them to make permanent changes and close the door on Eliot for good. Linda was in tears as she did that, but Yvette happily told her that she earned the right to be happy for her daughter. Ricardo made a discreet exit as they got to work.
They waited until after school to tell Ella's teacher about the changes. Yvette walked with Linda to Ella's classroom and showed Ella the change order with Ella hugging both over it. Daisy and Faith both hugged Linda while Yvette told their teacher that she could forget the name Eliot in all senses as it is excised from all records. Ella was Ella and Eliot had been a mistake that had been cleared up to the point of a new birth certificate being ordered released with her name and gender corrected.
The family drove home with Juan just now arriving from his own adventure down in New York. The four ate in peace with Linda telling him about the fun he missed. He had to laugh at the sheer stupidity of it all, with him happily saying "it figures I am out of state when this happens, I don't think I would have kept my cool but Ricardo has grown to drown out these scumbags and let them talk themselves out of a job if not a career."
The kids went to bed after finishing their homework and allowed the two adults to talk. Linda's phone rang which was odd as only a couple of people had her number. As she answered someone told her "you have our money. You die tomorrow."
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