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Simons says she, as well as others who shared in the care of Brittany, witnessed what they considered inappropriate sexual behavior by the child.
"She was scaring some people,"recalls Simons. "They told me they had never seen a child act out so sexually."
As for Brittany's whereabouts while in her care, Simons says they sometimes stayed in her apartment, but usually visited different friends for days or weeks at a time. Wherever she went, Brittany traveled with a home-schooling text called The Golden Book of Study, Simons says. At no time was Brittany ever in the care of Republic of Texas members, as attorney Larry Doherty maintains, or anyone from the judicial-reform "movement."
"I told Brittany these were people who wanted to protect her," Simons says. "Itold her she was on an adventure, and the only responsibility she had was to do her homework and play and run and kick up her heels and do whatever she thought a kid should do."
Three days after she was found, Brittany was interviewed again, this time by a woman at the Child Assessment Center, a kind of one-stop shopping place for child-protective services. According to a report on the session, Brittany told the interviewer that her mother had been "hiding"her, and that "Froggie was the only one who knew where I was." She identified Simons in the interview as someone who "helps lots of children leave from people they don't want to live with."
The assessment did not come to any conclusions, but it was obvious from the written report that Brittany was unhappy at being found. The interviewer noted that Brittany would not promise to tell the truth, and that she simply refused to answer some questions --such as "how it made her feel that her dad found her."
Indeed, Brittany repeatedly said that she wanted to live with her mother, and complained that her father often yelled at her when she did something wrong. When asked why she didn't want to go back to Bellaire with Corcoran, Brittany replied, "My mom loves me more because she takes good care of me. Dad does not take good care of me because he works. He works at the hospital; that's where he found me."
The interviewer noted that Brittany refused to talk about or discuss her body, including its sexual parts, though she did agree there were places on her body that should not be touched by other people. But, according to the written report, when the interviewer asked if Brittany would tell if that had happened, the child replied, "I don't know."
Jim Corcoran vehemently denies that he ever sexually assaulted his daughter or touched her in any inappropriate way. He blames Jones and Phrogge Simons for the complaint filed with CPS, saying they bombarded the child-protection agency with phone calls.
Corcoran says he was told to expect that Brittany would express a preference for living with her mother, at least at first. He says it's common for desperate women like Nikki Jones to "brainwash" their children into thinking the father doesn't love them. Moreover, he says, "I have to be constantly aware that she could be abducted again. I'm afraid to let her outside by herself."
Nikki-Marie Jones is afraid for her daughter, too. She wants her to be removed from her father's care and evaluated by physicians and psychologists to determine if she's ever been sexually abused. That possibility is at the heart of the "necessity defense" she plans for her trial on a criminal charge of interfering with child custody, which is scheduled to begin in July.
If she is acquitted, Jones hopes she can get a hearing before a family court judge, who will then give her sole custody of Brittany. If she loses, Jones could go back to jail, though that prospect hardly bothers her; she's already shown she's willing to sacrifice her freedom for her daughter.
Meanwhile, attorney Larry Doherty is busy putting his own spin on Brittany Ann Corcoran's traumatic life, which could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for him, not to mention several million in damages for his client, Jim Corcoran. Doherty claims Lauck and KHOU-TV have violated provisions of the Texas Family Code by interfering with a "possessory interest" in a child and is guilty of kidnapping, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy.
Perhaps, if Doherty's suit ever goes to trial, someone will ask Brittany Corcoran what she thinks about all this. Maybe she'll have the opportunity to explain what this tug-of-war between her mother and father has done to her childhood, and her life. For now, though, the record shows only a few comments she made to reporter Dan Lauck, during a portion of his interview with Jones that was never broadcast.
On the uncut version of the interview tape, Brittany is shown doing her homework. Lauck begins talking about some of Brittany's favorite books. Someone mentions the name of a famous children's book. Lauck asks if she remembers the story.
"I don't even remember when I was little," she replies.
E-mail Brian Wallstin at firstname.lastname@example.org.