Attorney says judge violated Murfreesboro dad's 4th Amendment rights and took kids away
Murfreesboro's Daniel Russell has two kids with his wife Kimberly and three from a previous marriage. Those three kids lived in Wayne county.
Out of the blue one day, he gets a phone call from DCS saying they are taking his kids from his ex-wife and going into state custody. Russell says he was told "if you want them, you have two hours."
“I left work and got them,” said Russell.
This wasn't easy. His family of four became a family of seven. His 16-year-old daughter was pregnant, and his son has a learning disability.
Nevertheless , Russell never hesitated. He got a bigger apartment and rolled up his sleeves. He and his wife joyfully accepted their new big family.
“We keep a tight ship," Russell said. "We keep a calendar on the wall and have dinners planned out for a week. The kids came from a totally different environment, and the DCS workers saw that when they came to my house."
Truth was, Daniel Russell and his wife were loving it and his kids were too.
“I got a permanent parenting plan in the mail, and they said they were closing the case,” Russell said.
Russell went down to Waynesboro to close the case. Out of the blue, Russell says Juvenile Court Judge James Ross ordered him to take a drug test.
Keep in mind, Russell has no drug history. There is no order anywhere requiring drug screening during the process.
“The judge was like 'you ain't gonna take a drug test?' and I said hold stop right there I think I need to consult an attorney,” Russell said. "That's not what I said, that's not what is happening."
Russell said he would go to a commercial lab and take a drug test right then and there. The court said not good enough and dismissed the motion the close the case.
Judge Ross then rules there is probable cause that the children are neglected or abused and takes the kids from Daniel.
"All of a sudden, boom, I am under the bus,” said Russell.
After that shocking hearing, Russell hired well-known family law attorney Connie Reguli.
“Look at this objectively," Reguli said. "He came in and saved the day; took kids who were in a bad situation, got them re-stabilized in his home, in school, his daughter medical care, and he had to change his life with two hours notice, and then he thinks it's over and he goes to court and the next thing you know before the sun sets that day he is turning his kids over to DCS custody."
Daniel says Mikayla, Christopher and Hannah are heartbroken, ripped away from a dad who was showing how much he cared.
Judge Ross gives two kids to Daniel's brother and his daughter to his ex-wife's grandmother. They are not even living in the same county anymore.
Connie Reguli says this is a violation of Fourth Amendment rights, the right against illegal search and seizure without probable cause.
“When you have someone walk in and there has never been an allegation , never a positive screen, no referral, no complaint there has never been anything that would even suggest this is a parent who abused drugs, this is a Fourth Amendment violation," Reguli said. "There is no loophole."
This man, who has already spent thousands of dollars to make a real home for his kids, is spending thousands getting them back.
Russell did take that drug test at a private lab, and it was negative. Now five weeks later, he still doesn't even have a court date to get his kids back.