But then came the killing shot that was to nail me to the cross.
Edward Grady Partin.
And Life magazine once again was Robert Kenedy’s tool. He figured that, at long last, he was going to dust my ass and he wanted to set the public up to see what a great man he was in getting Hoffa.
Life quoted Walter Sheridan, head of the Get-Hoffa Squad, that Partin was virtually the all-American boy even though he had been in jail “because of a minor domestic problem.”1Jimmy Hoffa, 1975
I stepped off the plane in Havana on 01 March 2019 and instantly realized I had left my yoga mat on the plane. I usually fold it under my butt to change the angle of my hips and make it practically impossible to forget, but the transfer from Fort Lauderdale had been so short that I had rolled it up and tucked under my seat, out of sight. I sighed. My head hurt, my body ached, and a year before the VA had begun monitoring gaps in my memory. I’ve always forgotten things not strapped to me, but for the last year I second-guessed myself every time I misplaced my keys or left my water bottle somewhere.
I was being directed away from the plane by Cuban officials, so it was too late to go back and retrieve the mat. I took a deep breath and expanded my chest, tightened the hip belt of my carryon backpack, adjusted the sternum strap, exhaled, and followed the security guard’s finger across the tarmac and towards the sign for customs.
My backpack was an old, sun-faded black mountaineering pack that was almost grey that barely made carry-on requirements. I had had to squeeze it into the overhead compartments with creative angling, like trying to force my big foot into a cowboy boot. On the outside, I had strapped a relatively new pair of dark black XXL Force Fins. The backpack had a flap that was designed for a snowboard or climbing helmet, and I usually carried a Frisbee in it when traveling lightly, but at the last minute I had decided to bring Force Fins instead. They’re short enough to fit into the overhead compartment, and I can never find rentals that fit when I’m outside the U.S. Force Fins were invented in, I think, the mid 1980’s by a guy who’s name I can never recall. They’re made from a thick polyethylene that snaps back and gives you an extra boost, but they require extra force to kick. To reduce foot and calf fatigue on long swims, Force Fins have open toes that put the force of resistance closure to the fulcrum of your ankle. In the late 80’s, the inventor scored a contract with Navy SEALS and Army Rangers looking for compact fins that would facilitate fast, long-distance, underwater missions. The patents had expired in the early 2000’s, 17 years after the date of filing per U.S. patent law, but there wasn’t enough demand to motivate manufacturers to invest in injection molds and market copies, so the privately owned Force Fins company was still the sole source for squat fins that fit in overhead bins. As for Frisbees, their patents expired before I was born, when patents were enforced for 20 years after the date of issuse. Now, flying discs are made by an untold number of manufacturers and are ubiquitous all over the world; but a lot of people still call them Frisbees. The original flying disc was named a Frisbee after the Frisbee family pie company near Yale university by students who tossed around the empty pie plates. Calling a flying disc a Frisbee is similar calling cotton ear swabs Q-Tips, adhesive bandages Band-Aides, nose tissues Kleenex, and, in the 80’s and 90’s, photocopies Zeroxes. I knew the background story of everything in my backpack, and I could talk about entrepreneurship and patents and business models with anyone who asked.
The customs officials didn’t ask anything, and because I had a visa they stamped my passport on 01 March 2019 instead of what my Lonely Planet guidebook had said was common for Americans, slipping a stamped note into your passport so that American officials won’t see you were there. I left the customs slightly disappointed by how easy it had been.
Per my visa, I had to use private rather than state-owned businesses, so I walked pass the taxis and left the airport grounds to a row of private drivers. It was a simple process, exactly as the Lonely Planet guide book had described. I chose a 1950’s convertible with the top already down. I don’t know which type of convertible – I’ve never been good at identifying vehicles – but it looked like all convertibles from that time period, like the one President Kennedy had been riding in when he was shot, and was in pristine condition. The driver proudly said it had been his father’s, and he had maintained it and tried to keep it looking original. It was a fine automobile, whatever it was called. We agreed on a price to a downtown plaza within walking distance of several casa particulares I had circled in my Lonely Planet. I put my bag in the back seat and sat in the front. He had installed a surprisingly elaborate Bluetooth stereo and speakers, and he turned on some afrofunk I had never heard but sounded groovy. We took off smoothly and cruised out of the airport and down the melecon with the driver tapping his fingers on the steering wheel to the music. I rotated my faded purple LSU baseball cap backwards to keep it from flying away, stretched my arms above my head, snapped my head back and forth to loosen my neck muscles, and leaned back and finally began to relax.
I asked where I could get public WiFi, but I must have said it poorly because he turned down the radio and asked me to repeat the question. I said I needed a public WiFi card and access. He told me Playa de San Francisco de Asi, near where we were going, and I asked if he’d drop me off there. “Claro que si!” he said, and turned the radio back up and resumed tapping his fingers. I road the rest of the way silently, admiring the melecon and Spanish forts and holding my hand flat by the rear view mirror, like an airplane foil, and rotated my wrist to make my hand fly up and down like Superman.
I hopped out on the edge of the Plaza, paid and thanked the driver, bought a WiFi card from a private vendor’s kiosk, and walked to where a handful of people were gathered staring at their smart phones around a few benches and a statue: the Lonely Planet said it was a statue of ______. I set down my backpack and clipped it to a bench, pulled out my iPhone 8 and smirked because it was probably already outdated even though I had bought it only a year before, logged in, and put the phone to one ear while I did slow lunges to stretch my hamstrings and open my hips back up.
The first voice mail was from Wendy. My phone was transcribing it, but I had packed reading my glasses in the bottom of my backpack. I put the phone to my ear and glanced around the plaza as I stretched and listened to her voice.
“Hey Jason, it’s Wendy. You’re probably in Cuba by now, but I thought I’d call just in case.”
She paused longer than usual.
“It’s not important.”
I stood upright. Something felt wrong.
“I just wanted to talk with you about my will.”
Another pause. I pressed the phone tighter to my left ear and covered the right with my hand.
“It’s not big deal… You travel so much that I wanted to add Cindi as executor. We can talk about it later.”
There was another pause, and I heard a hint of a sound, as if she had inhaled deeply and began to say, “I…”, and something inside of me exploded, as if a dam had broken and a flood of fear was pouring into my body. For some reason I can’t explain, I suddenly felt that Wendy would commit suicide, and that she was calling me and I could stop her; she wouldn’t, and I had no reason to suspect she would, but that’s the thought that popped into my mind.
She sighed a subtle sigh, and said in what was obviously a forced cheerful tone, “Tell Cristi I said hello, and have fun in Cuba. Call me when you get back.” She hung up.
Gut instincts can be wrong, so instead of calling her back immediately I kneeled by the bench and dug through my backpack and pulled out my reading glasses and earbuds – or iBuds or whatever they’re called – and rewound her message. The VA says I have a 15% hearing loss in each ear but at different frequencies, and the earbuds are in stereo and the software on my phone allows me to adjust frequencies so I can hear clearly, and the noise-canceling features would soften the din of live music wafting from bars circling the plaza. I put them in and listened to her message twice more while reading the transcript. Nothing changed from what I heard the first time. The transcription made a few mistakes translating her southern Louisiana accent, and missed her beginning to say, “I…” because it was as subtle as the b in subtle, but she had definitely began to tell me something and stopped before the first word manifested. I was fixated on wondering what she had wanted to say but had stopped, and wondering what had sparked my feeling that she could kill herself. I’m not prone to worry, but I was worried.
Wendy was my mother, Wendy Anne Rothdram Partin, but she had taught me to call her by her first name when I was a toddler in the foster system. She had lost her virginity to the main drug dealer of Glen Oaks High School at a New Years Eve party on 01 January 1971. She realized she was pregnant two weeks later and couldn’t afford the $150 for an abortion, so she accepted his proposal and they dropped out of school, eloped to Woodville, Mississippi, where my grandfather had been born and state laws allowed a 16 year old girl to marry a 17 year old boy. They returned a few days later to Baton Rouge as Mr. and Mrs. Ed Partin and moved into one of my grandfather’s houses. The new subdivision was plagued with house fires and car explosions, and I was plagued by accidents and hospital visits. She had two small nervous breakdowns and abandoned me twice. The second time, she left me at a daycare center near Glen Oaks and fled to California while my dad was gone for a few weeks in Kingston, Jamaica, buying drugs wholesale. The daycare closed and I was still there, so they called Wendy’s emergency contact, her best friend at Glen Oaks, Linda White. Linda’s dad was the custodian of Glen Oaks High and knew my parents well – there were only about 250 students and my parents had attended since they were freshmen. PawPaw rushed to the daycare and took me home. Wendy returned on her own and divorced my dad, but by then Judge Pugh of the East Baton Rouge Parish 19th Judicial District had assigned PawPaw and MawMaw as my legal guardians. Wendy found work and fought the Partin family and then the Whites for seven years and regained custody of me on 26 September 1976, though I would languish in the system for a few more years because of appeals.2 While she was visiting me once or twice a month and and fighting the system, Wendy was ashamed of being a young single uneducated mother who abandoned her infant son, and she taught me to call her by her first name so people would think I was her little brother. Old habits are hard to break, and I still called my mother Wendy.
I rotated my wrist and glanced at my wrist watch despite the phone in my hand. I had owned the watch for almost 30 years. It was oald solar powered Sieko dive watch with a thick black corrugated band. I adored that watch, and even with modern technology I was impressed every time I used it. In three decades, it had never needed a battery and had survived all kinds of abuse. A week before, I had replaced the band at About Time, the San Diego watchsmith I frequent, and the time was still set to the Pacific Coast. I did the math, and it was almost 5pm where Wendy lived in Saint Francisville, a town of about 1,500 people an hour upriver from Baton Rouge. I glanced at her voice mail’s time stamp, but it showed the time as when I turned on my phone in Havana, not when she left her message. I rotated the dial on my watch to move the hands to Havana time, lowered my hand, and sighed. I cringed at the thought of getting on another series of flights to reach New Orleans, where I would have to rent a car and drive two hours to Saint Francisville.
I closed my eyes and pondered what to do. The feeling that she would commit suicide was still there, but it had dissipated and was being replaced by irritation. I had checked messages in Houston but not Fort Lauderdale, so she could have left her voice mail any time in the previous eight or so hours. If I called now, she would be at least three bottles of wine into the evening and incoherently slurring her speech and repeating herself. I pondered why the thought that she’d commit suicide had popped into my head.
First of all, I was fatigued. My fatigue was not from a lack of sleep or too much physical activity; I’m slightly claustrophobic, and after all day of being cramped in small seats near chatty people I felt mentally drained from resisting the urge to jump out into open space. Also, my body was inflamed. My hips hurt after only 20 or 30 minutes of sitting at a right angle, and the discomfort from a day of sitting in economy airline seats added consternation for my body to my mind’s fatigue. Don’t even get me started on my aching neck, radiculopathy, and headache.
I sighed again, and realized I was fingering the big scar on the back of my head. It’s about a finger-width wide and eight inches long and curved like a backwards letter C. My finger had crept under my hat and reached my bald spot, which is what alerted me to what I was doing. After my bald spot developed, it looked less like a backwards C and more like a semi-colon; I’ve fingered it when fatigued for as long as I can remember. I lowered my hand and shook my head. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The feeling of worry, dread, or anxiety was real, but I couldn’t figure out from where it originated. It probably came from what I had been reading all day, and I’ll give you the 30-second summary.
I was in Cuba to research my grandfather’s role in President Kennedy’s assassination. He was Edward Grady Partin Senior, the Baton Rouge Teamster leader famous in the 1960’s and 70’s for helping the president’s brother, U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, convict international Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa of jury tampering in 1964 and sending him to prison for it in 1966.3 Bobby had released Big Daddy from a Baton Rouge jail cell in 1962, and purged his charges of kidnapping and manslaughter in exchange for Big Daddy infiltrating Hoffa’s inner circle to find “something” or “anything” against Hoffa. Hoffa was convicted almost solely on my grandfather’s word. To get out of prison, Hoffa needed Big Daddy alive so he could recant his testimony; if he died, Hoffa would languish in prison. Hoffa sent word to all mafia families that he would forgive $121 Million in debt if someone, somehow, could convince Big Daddy to recant his testimony; he emphasized that Big Daddy must not be killed, which was a wise thing to do from prison when the FBI monitored every word. My family grew up under federal protection, but the Partin family was plagued by beatings, kidnappings, explosions, and shootings in an effort to intimidate Big Daddy into recanting. The intimidation continued until a few years after Nixon pardoned Hoffa in 1971, when Hoffa vanished from a Detroit parking lot 30 July 1975. Around that time, the judge who had removed me from Partin custody, Judge Pugh, allegedly committed suicide. Judge JJ Lottingger took over, and presided over my case for the next year. Wendy regained custody of me on 26 September 1976, though I languished in the system for another couple of years because of appeals and finally began living with her shortly after Big Daddy went to prison for a long list of crimes in 1979. I believed that I could unravel secrets of Hoffa’s disappearance and President Kennedy’s assassination by studying a combination of Partin family court records, Hoffa’s supreme court appeal, newspaper and magazine articles, biographies and autobiographies, and the 1992 congressional JFK Assassination Report could unravel secrets. I had downloaded a warehouse sized pile of records into an e-reader that I tucked it into my backpack before I left San Diego, and I had a dog-eared and marked-up paperback copy of Frank “The Irishman” Shenan’s memoir about allegedly killing Hoffa, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” renamed to “The Irishman” to match Martin Scorcese’s upcoming film based on Frank’s book.
There had been a lot of violence, beatings, deaths, and suicides in my family history; and an old army buddy had recently committed suicide. Vets have four times the suicide rate of the general population, and I had been worried about a lot of my buddies who struggled after the first gulf war and were now as old and creaky as I was. We all felt more tired than we could describe to most civilians, and as Vince Lambarti said, fatigue will make a coward out of anyone. Over the years, we had lost many buddies we knew to be courageous at heart. I was worried about many people, and I may have projected a complex swirl of thoughts onto Wendy’s voice mail.
I took out my earbuds, closed my eyes, and took another deep breath and exhaled slowly, snapped my head back and forth and up and down and all around. I stood still. With my eyes closed, I saw the chain of thoughts that led to thinking Wendy would commit suicide. I told myself that I didn’t think she would. But, an analysis can be wrong, so I opened my eyes and put my earbuds back in and called Wendy while I still had WiFi minutes. Her mobile phone went to voice mail, probably because she was at home and the cell reception there was spotty. I called her land-line, but there was no answer and no answering machine. I called her mobile back and left a voice mail. I forced my voice to sound cheerful.
“Hey Wendy, it’s Jason. I got your voice mail. I’m in Cuba. I’ll be offline for a month and diving and climbing in a remote areas, but I’m in Havana for a week and will check messages every day or two.”
I chuckled clearly enough for her to hear, and said, “The cell phone reception here is worse than in Saint Francisville, so I have to find spots where I can check messages.”
On a whim, I told her that I was calling from a plaza named St. Francis, after the patron saint of kindness to animals, and said that I hoped that coincidence made her smile. She had been fostering dogs for about fifteen years, volunteering at the West Feliciana Parish humane society next door to Angola Prison in Saint Francisville. She had suffered from depression as long as I could recall, but if anything made her smile it was kindness to animals and her work with the human society. She’d take one or two mangy dogs home, nurse them to health, house train them, and groom them for pet adoption fairs in Baton Rouge. She had joked about the irony of Saint Francisville having so many prisons named after slave plantations, so I thought she’d appreciate the coincidental name of where I was standing. I added a perfunctory “I love you,” and reiterated her that I’d check messages once every day or two, emphasizing the ambiguity so she wouldn’t expect a quick reply.
I hung up and sent a WhatsAp to Cristi telling her I had arrived safely. I didn’t feel like checking other messages, but because I already had my reading glasses on I glanced at the names, just in case something looked important. Captain America had called – his name was Steve Rogers – and there was a call from the George Benson detention facility in San Diego, probably one of the three adults who had been kids in the foster system when I was their CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate4; Wendy volunteered with the West Feliciana humane society, I volunteered with the San Diego foster system. I didn’t feel like dealing with the call, and there was nothing I could do for at least another month. As for Captain America, he could wait at least another day or two.
I didn’t have many minutes left, so I called a few of the casa particulares I had circled in the guide book. In my best but most simple Spanish possible, I asked each one that had availability a few questions. One that said their room had a window looking onto a small courtyard and two doors, one leading to a private bathroom. It was a reasonable price and within walking distance from the plaza. I said that if it were okay, I’d be there after I had dinner, mas o menus a la nueve. They said that was fine, and told me what to look for outside their building. They said to knock when I arrived, that they went to bed mas o menus a la diez, so it was not a problem.
I packed away my earbuds, phone, and glasses. I stretched my hands above my head and twisted this way and that trying to crack my back. I glanced around the plaza. It was happy hour, and small groups of mostly young professional-looking Cubans walked around the square, peering in bars and occasionally glancing at their phones. No obvious tourists were in sight. I scanned the perimeter and listened to the competing beats of music and summed up the clientele of each. I stopped at what looked most promising, a bar with wide open double doors next to a large window that was also open. A couple of small round tables with 2 to 3 chairs each was outside, and a six-person band with a guitar, three brass horns, a stand-up wooden bass, and a congo drum set stood just inside on one half of the open doors. The evening sunlight was fading, so I could see inside clearly enough. It had a stand-up bar with high bar stools, and a hand-written sign that I couldn’t make out but looked like a daily food menu. There were about a dozen low-sitting tables with six chairs each generously spaced around the room, and a few booths opposite of the bar that would hold the same number of people. I couldn’t see the entire bar, but I assumed it had six stools since the owner seemed to like groups of six. Three tables and one booth had people sitting, and there were approximately a dozen people inside all together. The barstools I could see were empty. I glanced at my watch, and smiled. I could still catch happy hour and begin my sabbatical with a Hemmingway Daiquiri, if only to raise a toast to Papa Hemmingway and say I did it. I grew up reading Hemmingway’s books and about his escapades in Cuba, and if my trip ended after a single Hemmingway Daiquiri I’d be satisfied. I could tell I was beginning to relax, because I began hearing less of the competing music and more of the subtle sound of waves crashing against the melecon. This was the place. My smile was directed towards my young self, the one who had skipped an 11th grade assignment to read The Old Man and the Sea in 11th grade, and how he would be amazed at where he was standing and how he got there, and that he had voluntarily read The Old Man and The Sea and all of Hemmingway’s other works, and kept them and a library’s worth of books in a tiny device that would have impressed even Batman. I sighed again, but it was a pleasant sigh that followed a feeling of appreciation.
I didn’t see a sign with the bar’s name, but it stood out well enough and I could describe its location. I reached in my backpack and pulled out a flip phone sent me a week earlier, opened it, and waited for it to connect. I began to send a text using the archaic thee-letter buttons; the tactile feedback flowed into my fingers, and my mind recalled patterns of pushing buttons once, twice, or three times to spell words. I told Tim I had arrived, and gave him the bar’s location. He responded almost immediately. I replied “yay!” and packed away the phone and glasses, then unclipped my backpack from the bench and shouldered it but didn’t bother to adjust the straps. The bar was only a phone’s throw away. I stretched my neck again, took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, and began walking towards the bar while concentrating on my gait so that I wouldn’t limp noticeably. I smiled, ready to begin that year’s sabbatical.
Go to the Table of Contents
- The “minor domestic problem” was a reoccurring point in Hoffa’s defense strategy, and is summarized in Chief Justice Earl Warren’s missive attached to the 1966 supreme court case Hoffa vs. The United States:
Here, Edward Partin, a jailbird languishing in a Louisiana jail under indictments for such state and federal crimes as embezzlement, kidnapping, and manslaughter (and soon to be charged with perjury and assault), contacted federal authorities and told them he was willing to become, and would be useful as, an informer against Hoffa, who was then about to be tried in the Test Fleet case.
Big Daddy’s cellmate was Billy Simpson, a 21 year old Teamster who had lost his two children in a custody dispute. He and Big Daddy were in jail for kidnapping Billy’s kids from their mother. Billy and Big Daddy faced life in prison, compounded by a coincidentally timed manslaughter charge from when Big Daddy was driving back from his (our) family’s home in Woodville, Mississippi, and his car hit someone; he fled and they died, and Mississippi found him when he was arrested in Baton Rouge. The charges of assault and perjury came later, and Warren, as the only vote out of nine supreme court judges that dissented against accepting Big Daddy’s testimony, emphasized perjury in his missive about the risk of believing Big Daddy. Hoffa’s attorneys tried to discredit Big Daddy, but the FBI’s Get Hoffa task force and prosecuting attorneys told Hoffa’s jury – and later national media – that Big Daddy’s charges were simply a “minor domestic problem,” and for the next 13 years of his life Hoffa quoted them using “rabbit ears” to emphasize his sarcasm and the obvious incentive Big Daddy would have to help Bobby Kennedy, whom Hoffa called “Booby” for more than twenty years, in exchange for freedom and immunity from prosecution for as long as Hoffa was in prision. ↩︎
- My custody records, like most of my family history, are easily downloaded by anyone with internet access. Judge Pugh isn’t named by name. His alleged suicide in 1975 was briefly mentioned in local news, but not harped upon out of discretion. He was the only family court judge in East Baton Rouge Parish, and was replaced by Judge JJ Lottingger. Judge JJ was a 30 year veteran of Louisiana legislative law who served in the Baton Rouge state capital building down the road from Big Daddy’s Teamsters Local #5 headquarters, and he knew my grandfather well. He had spent decades and thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to rid Louisiana of Big Daddy on behalf of three governors, similar to how Bobby Kennedy – and Senator John F. Kennedy before him – had spent fifteen years and millions of taxpayer dollars trying to prosecute Hoffa. Lottingger assumed my case in the summer of 1975, around the time Hoffa vanished on 30 July 1975, and he took a personal interest in Wendy’s well being. He oversaw her effort to meet Judge Pugh’s surprisingly strict requirements against her, and his inexplicable ruling that, on paper, my dad retained custody despite the Whites dictating when and if my parents saw me. Lottingger doesn’t mention Pugh by name, nor does he mention Hoffa, but I believe he knew more than he wrote and was being prudent. Here’s what he had to say about my family in his 26 September 1976 ruling:
This is a suit by Edward Partin, Jr., plaintiff, seeking a divorce from his wife, Wendy Rothdram Partin, defendant, after having lived separate and apart for more than one year following a judgment of separation from bed and board. Plaintiff also seeks custody of the minor child, Jason Ian Partin, and the defendant reconvened asking that she be granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child.
The Trial Court had previously, by ex parte order, awarded the temporary care, custody and control of the minor to Mr. and Mrs. James Ed White. Following trial on the merits, plaintiff was awarded a divorce as well as the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child, with the temporary physical custody of the minor child to remain with Mr. and Mrs. James Ed White. The defendant has appealed this judgment as it regards the custody of the child.
This couple was married when plaintiff was 17 and the defendant was 16 years of age. Nine months following the marriage, they gave birth to young Jason. While we are not concerned with the facts surrounding the separation and divorce, it was apparently one of incompatibility as defendant testified that at the age of 17 she found herself married to a man who did not love her and so she left. Her testimony was as follows:
“As I say I was emotionally upset. I was receiving little support from Edward. I was scared, very confused. I didn’t know exactly which way to turn. I felt I had no one to listen and help with the situation at hand.”
Several weeks later she returned and lived with her husband again. She found that the situation hadn’t changed, and felt she had to get away again. She heard of a man who wanted someone to share expenses on a trip to California, so she quit her job and with her last wages left with him. She testified that she had no sexual relations with this man, and plaintiff does not accuse her of such. Following this trip she returned to Baton Rouge still emotionally upset. Her husband was suing her for separation and told her he was going to take custody of Jason. She went to live with her aunt and uncle, got a full time job with Kelly Girls paying $512.00 per month.
In February, 1975, the defendant’s mother was injured in an accident and she moved in with her to care for her. In September, 1975, following the recuperation of the mother she returned to live with her aunt and uncle.
During these above periods of time, the minor child lived with Mr. and Mrs. White. The Whites came to regard Jason as their own and, although the separation judgment awarded custody to the plaintiff with reasonable visitation privileges to the defendant, the Whites decided the defendant-mother could only see the child two days a month and that she could never keep the child over night. The reason the defendant did not contest custody at the separation trial was because at the time she felt unable emotionally and financially to care for her son.
[Judge Lottinger wrote a paragraph of legal jargon here, citing the “double burden” placed on Wendy by the deceased Judge Pugh to go above and beyond what was typically necessary to regain custody.]
We note that the petition for separation was grounded on habitual intemperance, as well as abandonment of the husband and the minor child. There are no other grounds listed for the separation nor for custody. The petition for the separation and custody of the minor child was not contested by the defendant, and a default judgment was granted. Defendant testified in the instant proceedings that the reason she did not contest custody in the separation proceeding was that she was not financially or emotionally capable of caring for the minor, and that knowing the Whites were going to be caring for him, she knew he would be in good hands.
Though the petition for separation had as one of its allegations “habitual intemperance”, the plaintiff in the instant proceeding testified that he had never accused his wife of drinking, nor had he ever seen her drink.
[Judge Lottinger goes on to cite a few precent cases, verdicts from previous judges in higher courts used to justify his opinions, a detail that’s less important in Louisiana’s version of the Napoleonic code, but still useful to show one’s logic and suggest unbiased decisions.]
The welfare of the child is the main issue that the Court is concerned with. This issue is more important than any wishes or wants the parents may have. Fulco v. Fulco, 259 La. 1122, 254 So.2d 603 (1971), rehearing denied (1971). As a general rule, and in particular where children of young age are involved, preference is given to the mother in custody cases. This preference is very simply explained, the mother is normally better able to care for the child and look after the education, rearing, and training necessary. Estes v. Estes, 261 La. 20, 258 So.2d 857 (1972), rehearing denied (1972).
No argument is made that the mother is not now morally or emotionally fit to care for the child, or that the house in which she lives is not a proper place to rear a child. In fact, the Trial Judge admitted that it was a fine home.
The Trial Judge has not favored us with written reasons for judgment, however, we must conclude from various statements by the Trial Judge that appear in the record that he could find no fault with the defendant, nor was there anything wrong with the house in which she lived. It thus becomes apparent to this Court that the Trial Judge applied the “double burden” rule to the defendant. We have already ruled that the “double burden” rule does not apply in this situation, and thus, under the established jurisprudential rules, we can see no reason why the defendant-mother should not be granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child with reasonable visitation privileges granted to the father.
In consideration of our above opinion, there is no need to discuss the specification of error as to the ex parte granting of custody to the Whites.
Therefore, for the above and foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Trial Court is reversed, and IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the defendant-appellant, Wendy Rothdram Partin, be and she is hereby granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor, Jason Ian Partin, and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that this matter be and it is hereby remanded to the Trial Court for the purpose of fixing specific visitation privileges on behalf of plaintiff-appellee Edward Partin, Jr. All costs of the appeal are to be paid by plaintiff-appellee.
As for discretion of any judge ruling on my custody and for Wendy’s consternation during the trial, consider that my dad was Ed Partin Jr, and that Ed Partin Sr was a known kidnapper for disputed custody rulings, and that both were extremely big and rugged men. And after Hoffa gave the go-ahead for intimidation against Ed Partin Sr, it’s useful to note that there were only about a dozen Partins in the Baton Rouge phone book back then, and Wendy and I were listed under Ed Partin Jr when I was born; I’m not an expert on low-level New Orleans mafia hitmen, but I assume they could read the phone book or knew someone who could. Wendy never discussed that time of her life, but she would always joke that she was born WAR, but marrying my dad WARP’ed her, and that’s why she started drinking. It’s no wonder she had a nervous breakdown and left. What’s impressive is that she returned and fought the Partins to get me back. ↩︎
- From the New York Times, 13 March 1990:
Baton Rouge, LA: Edward Grady Partin, a teamsters’ union leader whose testimony helped convict James R. Hoffa, the former president of the union, died Sunday at a nursing home here. Mr. Partin, who was 66 years old, suffered from heart disease and diabetes.
He helped Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy convict Mr. Hoffa of jury tampering in 1964. Mr. Partin, a close associate of Mr. Hoffa’s, testified that the teamster president had offered him $20,000 to fix the jury at Mr. Hoffa’s trial in 1962 on charges of taking kickbacks from a trucking company. That trial ended in a hung jury.
Mr. Hoffa went to prison after the jury-tampering conviction. James Neal, a prosecutor in the jury-tampering trial in Chattanooga, Tenn., said that when Mr. Partin walked into the courtroom Mr. Hoffa said, ”My God, it’s Partin.”
The Federal Government later spent 11 years prosecuting Mr. Partin on antitrust and extortion charges in connection with labor troubles in the Baton Rouge area in the late 1960’s. He was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice by hiding witnesses and arranging for perjured testimony in March 1979. An earlier trial in Butte, Mont., ended without a verdict.
Mr. Partin went to prison in 1980, and was released to a halfway house in 1986. While in prison he pleaded no contest to charges of conspiracy, racketeering and embezzling $450,000 in union money. At one time union members voted to continue paying Mr. Partin’s salary while he was in prison. He was removed from office in 1981.
Survivors include his mother, two brothers, a sister, five daughters, two sons, two brothers and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I’m Jason Ian Patin, the second oldest of his “several grandchildren” by ten months. I was 17 at his funeral. Two of my younger cousins already babies back then; teenage pregnancies were – and are – common, especially in the deep south.
- Coincidentally, the national CASA began the same year of Judge Lottingger’s ruling in Patin vs. Partin. According to the CASA organization’s website:
Inspiration came to Seattle juvenile court judge David W. Soukup in 1976.
Judge Soukup had insufficient information to make a life-changing decision for a 3-year-old girl who had suffered from child abuse.
That’s where the idea came from: These children, who had experienced abuse or neglect, needed trained volunteers speaking up in the courtroom for their best interests.
There are around 400,000 kids officially in the American foster system at any given moment, probably more than twice that if you count kids living with extended family and not receiving any state oversight. Mark Twain said there are lies, damn lies, and statistics; and no one’s certain, but researchers have spent years tracking foster kids into adulthood, and several studies show that about 85% of emancipated foster kids end up in jail, about 25% before they’re 21. Jail has about an 80% recidivism rate, so they usually return. Only 15% will attend college, and only 3% grad school. Almost all are traumatized, and most have mental illness or learning deficiencies from a range of reasons including bouncing between schools, missing days to weeks to months of school, and having more on their minds than homework, especially because they rarely have stable homes. Many if not most were abused, which is why they’re in state custody. San Diego receives about 55,000 calls for suspected abuse a year and has 300 social workers dedicated to investigating. About 7,500 kids are waiting for a San Diego CASA, but there are only about 300 CASA volunteers at a given time, and few can take on more than one case. We spend almost as much time sifting through court records as we do visiting with the kids, their foster families or group homes, and their biologic parents; and often their social workers, public attornies, teachers, and doctors, because a CASA holds legal rights to represent the kids for school and healthcare programs. There are a handful of CAMA’s who help, volunteering to focus on sifting through the annals of family court records to help everyone know the full story. CASA’s use a kid’s history to help paint a picture for judges. Everyone’s busy, and the stakes are large. Prison costs taxpayers around $75,000 per year per former foster kid; social workers earn less than $30,000 in most towns; minimum wage varies, but is less than $22,000 per year in San Diego. Volunteers do what they can when they can. We spend time that social workers can’t, and can follow kids cross county lines when bureaucratic systems won’t. We get to know everyone involved, and write reports on what we learn and tie those reports with court records to paint a more complete picture of each kid. We meet with judges in their chambers just before cases, and they make decisions that will affect a youth for the rest of their lives. There’s hope for some kids, because not all cases turn out badly. Steve Jobs, celebrated inventor of my already-outdated iPhone and once one of the world’s richest people, was adopted. So was Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the world’s richest person for many years. Dave Thomas, the self-made millionaire who founded Wendy’s Hamburgers, was adopted. He spent part of his fortune and lots of his time lobbying congress to make adoption more streamlined and to provide tax breaks to adopting families. Despite those few cases, the statistics – those lies and damn lies – point to a problem that hasn’t changed throughout all our legal system’s history: judges have a lot of authority, but even the most honorable judges are human and can only make decisions based on the information given to them. Juries too. We only know what we think we know. Probably because of my history, I know more than most how much information can be withheld from a judge when they’re making life-changing decisions; or, in the case of Jimmy Hoffa and my grandfather, history-shaping decisions. ↩︎