The events that led up to a Franklin lawyer Sarah Braen-Scott's arrest for filing a false petition to adopt a baby girl began innocently and were never intended to cause anyone harm, she said Wednesday.
Braen-Scott, 34, was arrested Monday on a misdemeanor charge of second-degree offering a false instrument for filing, Delaware County Social Services Investigator Mark Hamilton said Tuesday.
Delhi Town Justice Joseph Skovira accepted Braen-Scott's guilty plea and scheduled her sentencing for 10 a.m. April 16, the court clerk said Tuesday.
"It's being portrayed like I meant to exclude her birth father, but I wanted to keep both her parents in her life," Braen-Scott said. "They are saying I set up the whole thing, but no money ever changed hands and I only found out the truth later.
"I accept responsibility," she continued. "I believe that some part of my brain knew, but I was able to rationalize it away in my excitement."
Braen-Scott said she found out that a pregnant inmate at the Delaware County jail wanted to give up her child for adoption.
"I found out from a client of mine who was also an inmate at the jail," Braen-Scott said. "I had represented the client several times over the years and she was aware that I was interested in adopting."
Braen-Scott said she and her husband had registered with an adoption agency when she became aware that Jessie B. Tompkins, 23, was seeking a home for her expected child.
Braen-Scott said she met with Tompkins in December 2006 but did not specifically ask why she was in jail.
"I did ask her if the charges were drug-related because I was concerned about the baby," Braen-Scott said. "Jessie said she wanted to give up the baby because she already had two kids and couldn't handle having a third. I only found out after paternity was filed what she was in jail for."
Tompkins was in jail on charges that she had repeatedly raped a 13-year-old boy. She pleaded guilty on Feb. 13, 2007, to second-degree rape and criminal contempt, was sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years' probation and was listed on the sex-offender registry, Delaware County District Attorney Richard Northrup said Wednesday.
Braen-Scott said she asked Tompkins who the father was, and Tompkins said she had been with more than one sexual partner. However, based on the timing, she thought the father was a man she knew who lived in the former Messina's trailer park, down the road from Tompkins' sister.
Braen-Scott said Tompkins never provided a name, but she did give a physical description of the father.
"Jessie said he was reluctant because he didn't want to be involved in having a kid," Braen-Scott said.
Coincidentally, Braen-Scott said, she knew of a man who fit the description and lived in the trailer park _ the younger brother of her secretary.
Braen-Scott spoke to the man, named Chris, and asked him if he could be the child's father. He said he didn't know and would have to talk to the mother to find out.
After a meeting in jail between Tompkins and Chris, Braen-Scott said he told her, "Yeah, I could be this child's father" and was willing to sign off to let the adoption proceed.
Braen-Scott said that in retrospect, red flags arose, but lacking more information, she had nothing else to work with.
"I was really excited and overwhelmed by this wonderful prospect and willing to overlook what was striking me as a little off," she said. "I don't want anybody to hold anything against them."
A week before Tompkins' due date, Braen-Scott said the adoption agency contacted her and said they had an infant girl available.
"I told them I was going to adopt this child and to give another couple the opportunity to adopt the baby," Braen-Scott said. "If only I had gone with the agency."
Tompkins' baby girl was born March 13, 2007. The secretary's brother and Tompkins signed the consent forms at the hospital, and Braen-Scott and her husband took the baby home March 15.
"I'm not upset with Jessie or Chris," Braen-Scott said. "I think they thought they were doing me a favor."
After the papers were signed, Braen-Scott said Chris came to her and asked for help with a loan he owed his sister.
Braen-Scott said she agreed to talk to her secretary about forgiving the loan, but she never gave the man money.
When the Social Services home study, which is required in private adoptions, began in April, the caseworker told Braen-Scott that they suspected that a different man was the father. She said she waited for them to provide a name or other information, but when nothing more was said, she filed the adoption papers, which included Chris' claim to be the father, in Delaware County Family Court. That petition was filed on or about July 12.
The appointed special prosecutor, Michael L. Breen, of Middleburgh, said Tuesday that Hamilton gathered sworn statements while he was conducting a routine investigation required by law when there is a private adoption.
Social Services investigators had worked on the Tompkins rape case and knew about her relationship with the teenager, who was later determined to be the baby's father in court-ordered paternity testing.
The child was removed from Braen-Scott's home about a week before Christmas, Breen said.
Braen-Scott said she believes the teenage rape victim will be granted custody, adding, "I feel very sorry that he missed out on the early part of his daughter's life."
Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at email@example.com.