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Purveyors of Deceit: Why PBS Must Yank 'Breaking the Silence'
November 9, 2005
by Carey Roberts

Scott Loeliger thought he had found the woman of his dreams when he married African-born Sadia. But after she assaulted Scott and spent a night in the Santa Clara County jail, Scott began to have his doubts.

Just seven months after the birth of their daughter Fatima, their marriage was on the rocks. After the divorce was finalized, an enraged Sadia stormed into Scott's home, assaulted his female roommate, and removed a screaming Fatima. As a result, the court awarded custody of the girl to her father.

In 1997 a child abuse investigator in Tehama County, California interviewed 7-year-old Fatima and wrote, "she has been hit with her mothers shoe which left bruises on her arm, a wire hangar which also left brown marks on her arms or hands, and her mother has hit her with her open hand."

After Sadia attacked her babysitter one day, the frightened woman reported the assault to the local authorities. She later testified in court that Sadia would "pick up anything near her to hit Sara [Fatima's cousin] if she is angry enough" and concluded, "I am afraid for the children and I am afraid for my life."

A year later the Tulare County Juvenile Court ruled that Sadia was guilty on eight counts of child abuse and had the children removed from her care.

But a vindictive Sadia refused to accept the verdict.

So she launched a campaign to alienate Fatima from her father. As Superior Court Judge Edward King noted in his 2003 decision, "the Court finds that the mom manipulated the minor's attitude toward her dad and undermined the relationship they had developed over a three-year period. In fact, the mom destroyed that relationship in less than three months."

We know all this from a series of shocking documents that were revealed last week by columnist Glenn Sacks. Legal transcripts, court findings, and child abuse reports all pointed to a simple yet disturbing truth: Sadia Loeliger was a serial child abuser who would stop at nothing to take Fatima away from her father.

A year or so after Judge King handed down his decision, Sadia brought her story to Dominique Lasseur, an acclaimed New York City producer. Lasseur's company was the beneficiary of a $400,000 plum from the Mary Kay Ash Foundation to produce an exposť how divorce courts often award custody of children to abusive fathers. And Sadia, a minority woman who could tell a compelling story in front of the camera, fit the script perfectly.

So when the Public Broadcasting Service unveiled Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories on October 20, Sadia Loeliger was depicted as a sympathetic underdog doing heroic battle against a legal system that was biased against women. Not a word was mentioned about the eight counts of child abuse, about the babysitter's frightened testimony, or about the alienation campaign.

So was Dominique Lasseur simply duped by Sadia's guile and charm, another unwary victim of her manipulative lies?

It turns out that beginning in April of this year, Scott Loeliger repeatedly warned Lasseur about his ex-wife's long history of child abuse. He pleaded that the footage about his daughter be cut. And he provided documents and photographs to back up his claims.

But Mr. Lasseur figured that in the court of public opinion, the self-assured testimony of an immigrant mom, pitched to a group of dewy-eyed women and set against appropriate background music, would prevail over the cold truth of child abuse reports, depositions, and court decisions.

Loving dads who go through a divorce often face a hellacious struggle trying to stay involved in their kids' lives. And Sadia Loeliger's campaign to alienate a young girl from her father reveals one reason why.

To date, PBS has refused to comment on the incriminating documents. Tight-lipped PBS execs will only concede, "The stories profiled in Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories document a statistically small but serious problem in our family court system."

This past Thursday, Ken Tomlinson was pressured to resign from the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting because of his campaign to restore balance and fairness to the beleaguered network.

In a September 22 speech to the Media Institute, Tomlinson commented, "This thing of balance is not rocket science -- and that is why I had so little tolerance for public broadcasting's inability to achieve balance."

Fairness, balance, and the truth -- that's what public television is supposed to be all about.

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