By Josh Gagnier We are not special and we are not...
The Curious Case of Staff Sergeant Parsons
By Jack Mandaville
“Stuff like this is the reason people say fact is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense. Reality doesn’t have to do shit.”
-Tucker Max, Hilarity Ensues
Sometimes it takes genuine injustice to put things in perspective. I was recently reminded of this during my clash with a prominent floral service that failed to deliver a chocolates order on Valentine’s Day… and the next day… and the next day… and as I write this opening paragraph. Nobody likes having their money held hostage. But, again, perspective has humbled my rage about the incident.
So begins the story of Marine Staff Sergeant Brandon Parsons and his role in one of the most baffling legal debacles in the history paternity cases.
A Superior Court of California judge has recently ruled that SSgt Parsons, a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, must continue to pay child support another twelve years for a child that ISN’T his—a payment that, counting the $50,000 he’s already remunerated his ex-wife, Crystal Parson, will put him on pace to pay over $250,000 before his legal obligation ends (twelve years from now), according to his lawyer. This payment, broken down, takes up approximately one-third of his current salary.
The judge, having made the decision because of a loophole in the events leading up to the ruling, didn’t hold back in his disdain for Parsons’ ex-wife’s actions. The first sentence in the second paragraph of the court’s ruling says it all:
While the court concludes that father was, in fact, despicably duped and victimized by Petitioner Crystal Parsons’s (hereinafter “Mother”) fraudulent concealment regarding biological paternity, a deception which has placed a significant, continuing financial burden upon Father, existing law, as applied to the facts of this case, precludes the court from setting aside the prior paternity determination or ordering genetic blood testing.
So how did this apparent calamity of justice happen? Here’s the gist:
After completing his first combat deployment in the Spring of 2005—of which he spent the majority of time fighting in Ramadi, Iraq—SSgt Parsons, then a twenty-year old corporal, returned to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and immediately began a sexual relationship with his then-fiancé, Crystal Domenech. Their first sexual encounter was, according to court documents, on April 5, 2005.
Seventeen days later, Crystal announced to Brandon that she was pregnant. Brandon, without questioning any aspects of her statement or the legitimacy of his biological paternity, decided to bump up their scheduled nuptials and spent the majority of his money (an estimated $20,000)—of which most came from his recent deployment—on her dream wedding.
What both Brandon and the court now know is that Crystal Domenech Parsons had been engaged in numerous sexual affairs while he was on deployment and, consequently, the child that Brandon raised—under the assumption he was legitimately the father—was indeed that of another man. (Crystal Parsons refuses to name the true identity of the biological father to this day.) Moreover, it was both alleged by Parsons and believed by the court that Crystal chose to sleep with then-Corporal Parsons purely to cover up her previous sexual encounters and pin the pregnancy on him, therefore having access to his military benefits.
It was after the end of Parsons’ second deployment to Iraq that Crystal Parsons, who continued to engage in extramarital affairs during his absence, made it clear she wanted a divorce—only after emptying his bank account and paying her personal bills in his name.
SSgt Parsons’ first inkling that he was not the biological father, brought to his attention by a former friend of Crystal, occurred in April of 2010, less than a year after their divorce. Within the month, Parsons had confirmed through an over-the-counter test by Identigene that the child he had been raising for four and a half years was not his.
“The worst part of being a paternity fraud victim is that nobody can help you,” SSgt Parsons told me in a recent phone interview. “When a guy is dealing with a break up, his buddy can say, ‘Dude, I’ve been there.’ Nobody knows what to say in that kind of situation. I broke down and the Marines around me just stood there.”
SSgt Parsons confronted his ex-wife soon after that. This is the exchange, according to Brandon Parsons, in his official court declaration:
After she had read the result I asked her to tell me the truth. She then began telling me that while I was in Iraq she had been raped. I told her that I did not believe her and to start telling me the truth for [Child’s name – Redacted] sake. I asked her how many men she had slept with while I was on deployment. When she did not answer at first I asked her if it had been more than 2 men and she nodded her head indicating “yes.” I asked her if it was more than 5 and again she nodded her head indicating “yes.” I asked if it was more than 7 men she had slept with. This time she screamed at me that she did not know how many. After she calmed down she told me that in March 2005 [a month before his return] she discovered she was pregnant and told her mother. She said that her mother told her that military spouse benefits were excellent and she should remember that she did not have insurance coverage for the hospital bills.
(It should be noted that, by all accounts, while Parsons lost the aforementioned legal case, the court never denied the plausibility of Parsons’ report of the events. In fact, the judge made it more than clear that Brandon Parsons’ side of the story was the most credible and that Crystal Parsons had acted “despicably” leading up to the ruling.)
After this exchange, Parsons convinced his ex to meet him for another DNA test, along with the child.
He continues in his statement:
When they came into the waiting room [Child’s name—Redacted] came over to me and was talking to me when Crystal’s mother came and grabbed him and pulled him away telling him not to talk to me because I was a stranger now. She also began calling me names. I asked her to please stop cursing at me before the child. This made her really angry and she looked right in my eyes and told me that I should have died in Iraq like I was supposed to do.
Parsons was unable to obtain a DNA test that day due to the vitriolic nature of Crystal and her mother, opting to leave after the two women threatened to call the police on him.
So why, after the court has concluded that Parsons’ description of the events is more grounded than his ex’s and his prior over-the-counter test is admissible as legitimate proof that he is not the father, does he still have to pay child support for a child that isn’t his? The answer—in all the convoluted facets of the case—is simple: timing.
He did not file a complaint against Crystal Parsons until early-December of 2012—more than two and half years after he discovered he was not the father of the child.
The court’s explanation:
Even if the fraud ground of Family Code section 2122(a) applied, Father’s set aside motion is untimely since such a motion must be brought “within one year after the date on which the complaining party either did discover, or should have discovered, the fraud.” Father’s discovery of the fraud occurred in April of 2010, i.e., a date more than 2 ½ years ago.
In laymen’s terms: he was too late. This is the loophole that Crystal Domenech Parsons won the ruling by—resulting in the court ordering SSgt Brandon Parsons to pay another twelve years of child support for a child that he now has no access to.
This is where things get really enraging: Crystal Parsons has recently filed a motion asking the court to order SSgt Parsons to pay $8,535 (on top of his ongoing child support) for the lawyer she hired to defend the mess she created in the first place. Additionally, on a more egregious level, the child—who Brandon Parsons adamantly maintains is the “biggest loser in all of this”—suffers from chronic hereditary illnesses that neither him or Crystal Parsons have. Her refusal and/or inability to name the biological father has greatly inhibited the child from getting the proper care he deserves.
(Folks, in my humble opinion, Crystal Parsons is the living, breathing, real life bastard child of Snidely Whiplash and… Satan—who is possibly her mother.)
But Parsons, who has since been remarried, isn’t deterred. He says he’s going to fight it.
“If we [Marines] can take Iwo Jima, I can win this case,” he told me. “I want to win this for every Marine—for every man—who gets screwed like this.”
My initial impression of SSgt Parsons after our three hour conversation is that he’s an extremely optimistic individual with a cheerful demeanor—exactly what I’d expect from a Minnesotan who grew up a stone’s throw from the Canadian border.
Even after the disheartening outcome of his case, he continues to see the best in most people involved.
“The judge did a good job,” he said. “I could tell he did everything he could to get me out of this. He had his hands tied.”
“My attorney, Mr. Richard Lowe, was the only attorney in Southern California that even remotely had an idea as to how we should approach this problem and solve it,” he wrote me in an email after our conversation. “He’s an excellent attorney and an even better friend. He deserves praise and is helping several other paternity fraud victims as we speak.”
It’s hard to get angry about my twenty dollars at this point. (For the record, as I finish this story, I just received an email from the company, promising me a full refund.) Besides, there are certainly bigger travesties in America right now… as the case of SSgt Brandon Parsons has proved.
Editor’s Note: All information and court transcripts contained in this piece were obtained and verified through open source information available on the internet at the time of publishing. -RU Rob, Lord Commander and Regent of Ye Olde Rhino Den.