How an elderly mother’s guardianship landed a former sheriff in jail


In the aftermath of the Free Britney Spears movement, a retired sheriff who helped free his friend’s elderly mother from court-appointed guardianship has landed in Washoe County Jail.

Stewart Handte — once the chief of police for the Indian settlement of Reno-Sparks, a former Nevada Highway Patrol state trooper and former president of their union — has been incarcerated since last week.

Handte and Roger Hillygus were arrested for kidnapping Hillygus’ mother, Susan Hillygus, after a confrontation with police in August 2019.

“They were overmedicating my mother and keeping her in a facility against her will,” Hillygus told The Epoch Times.

“She wanted to go away and be with her brother in California so I took her there because every time I visited her she wanted to go.

“Once she had a black eye and stained pants. I couldn’t sit idly by and see her like this without doing anything. I am his son.

Susan Hillygus with her son Roger Hillygus. (Courtesy of Roger Hillygus)

Susan Hillygus has since died and both men have been out on bail for around 2.5 years pending the resolution of the charges in court. However, on January 19, a traffic stop took Handte into custody.

“Roger Hillygus would not have had to save his mother’s life if there had been a fair and reasonable guardianship or guardianship process in the United States,” said Dr. Sam Sugar, founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship (AAAPG) in Hollywood, Florida.

“It is because this system is so rigid, so ruthless and so easily perceived as corrupt that it was forced into this position and it is now suffering the consequences. The system tolerates no dissent and gives itself a lot evil to destroy anyone who dares to stand up to him.”

Behind his recent arrest is Handte’s refusal to wear a GPS ankle monitoring device.

“He didn’t consent to the tracker or didn’t want to pay $90 a week for it,” Hillygus said of his co-defendant.

“He never failed to check in, had no issues or committed any crimes and was out on his own recognizance. There was no need to follow him. It is a violation of his constitutional rights.

Handte remains in custody on $100,000 cash bond.

“The judge determines what the ultimate bail is in a case…and, in this case, that bail is not set as a result of the original charge,” said chief investigator Michelle Bays of the Investigations Division. from the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office.

“It is the result of [Handte] failing to follow through with the order of the court and judge and then failing to appear when ordered. »

During a status hearing on February 2, Handte was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair flanked by two officers, slumped on their sides and wearing black masks.

Judge Barry Breslow requested a motion from Handte’s attorney, Thomas Pitaro, that would allow him to order the prison to address Handte’s apparent decline since his incarceration.

“If you believe the prison is deficient and jeopardizes his health, safety or welfare in any way, please file something with an authority that gives me the right to order them to do something different from what they’re doing now,” Breslow said. Pitaro at the remote hearing on Zoom.

Breslow also hinted that he would be willing to waive Handte’s $100,000 bond if Handte complied with wearing an ankle bracelet and Pitaro submitted a motion requesting it.

“I want Mr. Handte out of jail if he complies with the court order,” Breslow added.

“I’m sorry he has a medical issue and we can talk about that too, but it didn’t make me happy to revoke his bail. I just want him to comply with the court order and move this forward. affair.

Pitaro did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Mr. Handte’s attorney is free to file a motion seeking bail variation or alternative relief,” Alicia Lerud, court administrator and Washoe County Second Judicial District Court Clerk, told The Epoch Times. after the hearing.

“The court has not yet relieved Mr. Pitaro of his professional obligations to represent Mr. Handte. If necessary, a hearing on Mr. Handte’s request to represent himself will take place at a later date. »

Dr. Sugar, author of the book “Guardians and the Elderly: The Perfect Crime,” estimates that there are three million or more elderly and disabled adults under court supervision nationwide.

“Nobody knows how many cases there are and it’s just a guess, whoever does,” he said.

“Of all the estimates of how many guardianships there are or could be, the very low range is a … conservative 1.3 or 1.5 million.

“From my perspective, this is an extremely low number and we can only extrapolate from existing data, which suggests there are 3 million or more.”

Britney Spears’ conservatorship, known as conservatorship in California, has raised awareness of the abuses that could occur as a result of judicial conservatorships.

For example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that court-appointed guardianships are used for surveillance, denying visits to friends and family, interfering with reproductive rights, denying medical care, meals and to confine individuals without consent.

“Before the Free Britney movement, very few people had a minimal understanding of the dysfunction of the guardianship and guardianship system,” Sugar told The Epoch Times.

“Britney’s case was terrible but she’s alive to talk about it because she’s rich and famous. The typical end for someone in this nationwide system is to be broke and dead.

Correction: A previous version of this article featured a photo that incorrectly identified one of the subjects as Stewart Handte. The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Juliet Fairley


Juliette Fairley is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Born in Chateauroux, France, and raised outside of Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Juliette is a well-adjusted military brat who now lives in Manhattan. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet, Time magazine, Newsmax and many other publications across the country. When not reporting and writing for The Epoch Times, she works as an actress on television and in feature films.


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