Family Injustice: It Never Ends

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Does throwing people in jail when they get behind on their spousal or child support make any sense? You can’t make any money while you’re locked up.

And in Brazos County, we’re watching a case that raises that question and so many more about how Texas family courts operate. It’s family injustice. It Never Ends.

“You know, I’ve spent Christmases before in a hole in the ground. I’m a Marine. I was in the hole Christmas this year too,” Matt Murski said in an interview.

Matt Murski spent last Christmas behind bars, thrown into the Brazos County Jail for not paying to support his wife before their ugly divorce was final.

“Four white walls and not knowing what time of day or what day it was. 47 or 48 days, it’s been traumatic. It’s crushed everything that I’ve built,” Murski told us.

We have the audio of a very unsympathetic Brazos County Judge, Wendy Wood Hencerling.

“So get unhappy now, so that you’ll be unhappy when you get the ruling. And you can just get happy afterwards, okay?” Hencerling said.

The judge ordered Matt to pay his wife more than $2,100 per month.

That doesn’t include another $1,100 per month for his children.

“In my head, I said, ‘that’s not going to happen,’ and that’s when she said, ‘go get 17 more clients and get another job.’ So it was a total, like, inequitable impossible split,” Murski said.

Financially devastating for a guy who had borrowed COVID funds just to try to stay afloat. He was losing money every month.

This unelected judge had never met Matt Murski before an hour-long hearing.

He testified for a couple of minutes, yet she had apparently decided he was shady and ignorant—that’s what she wrote.

And that’s why Matt ended up in jail on contempt charges—a bill that had now swollen to $67,000.

“It felt like extortion. You pay this or we’ll see what six months in county does,” Murski told us.

“Common sense tells you, if you put somebody in jail, they’re not going to be able to pay child support,” Family Attorney John LaGrappe said.

Family lawyer John LaGrappe says jail time for payment delinquency is a regular occurrence in the family courts.

“They are very reluctant to find that somebody cannot financially afford to pay either child support or spousal support. Politically, it looks like they’re not taking care of the children,” LaGrappe told us.

“I don’t think sufficient evidence was presented to support a finding of the amount of spousal support he was ordered to pay and the amount of child support he was ordered to pay,” Ben Beveridge, Murski’s attorney told us.

Matt’s lawyer, Ben Beveridge, will try to get the court ordered payments modified later on, but getting Matt out of jail to was priority number one.

“Immediately we’re asking the appeals court to set a bond and let Matt out of jail while the issue is being decided,” Beveridge said.

Lawyers filed what’s called ‘a writ of habeas corpus’ with the 10th District Court of Appeals to get Matt out jail while he kept fighting.

It’s usually granted in days.

But for Matt, the request to the appeals court went unanswered for nearly seven weeks, and the lawyers were shocked.

“I’ve never seen anything take this long. We’re both stumped, me and co-counsel,” Beveridge said.

Matt’s father even staged a one-man picket outside the Brazos County courthouse.

 “The one thing in our American lifestyle that should be fundamentally right is judicial system, and it has gone awry,” Robert Murski said.

Matt’s father talked to a College Station woman, Fabi Payton, who uses her Facebook page now to advocate for a better community.

“I try to speak up in places where nobody else would,” Payton said in a video.

Her page has several posts about Matt’s troubles, including an interview with him while he was in jail.

“When you dig, all you can find is dirt, and that’s what we’re finding,” Matt Murski said in a zoom interview.

“I was happy to share his story and tell his truth so that others could be warned, be aware, or that people could come to his rescue,” Payton said.

His dad’s homemade sign was calling out alleged cronyism, corruption, and oligarchy.

“This thing was stacked. That’s what’s so bad, if it wasn’t stacked, I can live with anything, but it’s stacked,” Robert Murski said over the phone.

“It sends up some red flags. When you file as a habeas corpus relief, it’s just saying, ‘hey, this guy is illegally detained at this point,’” Kim Thomas said in an interview.

But, was this unusual delay political?

Murski’s ex-wife has a lawyer named Amy Banks.

Her dad was a longtime lawyer and judge in Brazos County.

His obituary says he was “embedded in the legal community.” 

“Seeing that one of the judges was the pallbearer at the opposing counsel’s father’s funeral,” Murski told us.

That’s right, one of the pallbearers was Justice Steven Smith of the 10th District Court of Appeals.

He was also one of the justices that seemed to be ignoring Matt’s jailhouse cries for help.

“Apparently the judge was friends or acquaintances with opposing counsel’s father,” Beveridge told us.

Justice Smith told us it would be unethical to comment on a pending case, but Matt’s lawyers think Justice Smith should have recused himself.

“If there’s an appearance of impropriety. A judge should back off because litigants shouldn’t have to wonder, ‘is this happening because of this relationship?’ That shouldn’t even be a concern,” Beveridge said.

So Ben Beveridge did an end around and filed another appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

“And two business days after the Supreme Court filing, now the Appellate Court responds,” Matt Murski told us.

Matt’s ex-wife has picked two new fights, starting with that Facebook advocate.

“His ex came after me. She’s coming after me. She’s currently trying to get me fired,” Payton said.

But what’s worse, after Matt finally got out of jail back on January 30th, his ex now wants to take away his kids for good.

“I’m doing all this for my kids. You know, I’m giving everything I have for my kids,” Matt Murski told us.

Matt was served with a motion to modify custody earlier in February.

And she wants a protective order too, but there has never been an allegation in court that Matt has physically hurt his kids.

These protective orders are being horribly abused in this state.

“My twins are named after me and my brother, Matt and Aaron. And Cayden, my nine-year-old, was born on my birthday. She’s my birthday present. There’s no way I’m giving up my kids,” Matt Murski said.

“The way the system operates, if an individual wants to be excessive and retaliatory against another person, they can try to exploit the system,” LaGrappe said.

“I’m being set up. Every time there’s something. Every time I turn around there’s a spin on anything I do,” Matt Murski said.

And we’ve said it before, lawyers and judges seem perfectly happy to let the fight drag on.

“They lose sight of the fact that when there’s conflict between the parents, it harms the child. And instead of takes step to protect the children by reducing the conflict of the parents, far too often the courts, in their rulings, encourage conflict,” LaGrappe told us.

Matt isn’t just getting more legal action, his ex-wife wants him to pay her lawyer, too, as she tries to take away his kids.

He might have to because of a controversial Texas law.

“She got everything. I got nothing. She got all the money and I went to jail. So, it doesn’t get any more inequitable,” Matt Murski said.

“What goes on within a court case can crush an individual. It can destroy their lives,” LaGrappe said.

LaGrappe should know.

He has 32 years’ experience in family courts. 

“The injustices that occur on the family courts are rarely ever spoken about. Rarely ever talked about. That’s the truth. So, it’s good that there is coverage of this issue. And that’s why I agree to do interviews. That’s why I’m being interviewed,” LaGrappe told us.

Matt’s friend, Kim Thomas, set up a GoFundMe page to pay for Matt’s legal fees.

So far, the fund has raised more than $15,000.

Donors are recognizing the family injustice.

“I just need a balance to life so I can move on and do best and grow and do what I need to do to raise my kids,” said Matt Murski.

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