On Thursday, attorneys representing Donna Ames and the local nonprofit Adoption Rocks sent a letter to the Huffington Post and its proprietor, Arianna Huffington, demanding an “immediate and full retraction” and apology for an article about a local adoption published earlier this month.
The story, titled “Wrongful Adoption: Return Baby Elliott,” was based upon the adoption of Mobile resident Kimberly Rossler’s baby. In the story, Rossler says she decided to keep custody of her child after undergoing counseling.However, before changing her mind, Rossler signed a pre-birth consent document related to her child’s adoption before Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis. At the time, Rossler continued accepting payments from the agency to cover medical expenses related to her pregnancy.
After her son was born, deputies of the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office removed the child from Rossler and placed it in the custody of the adopted mother, Katherine Gilliard Sharp of Birmingham. That decision sparked the article published July 7, which in turn caused a controversy locally and across the country.
“The Huffington Post’s attack on Donna Ames and Adoption Rocks, Inc. as well as Judge Don Davis and Alabama’s established adoption procedures was malicious, unwarranted, and indefensible,” wrote Ames’ attorney, Vincent F. Kilborn. “Had the Huffington Post made even a cursory investigation into Kimberly Rossler’s story, it would have discovered that Ms. Rossler is hardly the ‘naive,’ ‘manipulated,’ victim of ‘fraud’ and ‘undue influence’ that she makes herself out to be. There is a victim in this story, but it is definitely not Kimberly Rossler.”Huffington Post has already issued at least one correction to the story, which incorrectly claimed that Davis’ had a conflict of interest in the case due to serving on Adoption Rocks’ Board of Directors. As Lagniappe pointed out, Davis is only on the non-profit’s advisory board because of his role in adoption cases in Mobile County.
The Huffington Post also reported that Ames was a “major donor” to Davis’ re-election campaign. According to Probate Court records, Ames has indeed made political contributions to Davis in the past — $100 in 2000 and $400 in 2011. Davis ran unopposed in 2012 and will not face a campaign again until 2018.
The Huffington Post story stated that Rossler told Adoption Rocks and Ames several times that she intended to keep her child after birth. In his letter, Kilborn said those claims were false. He went on to cite a text message from Rossler to Ames one week before Elliott’s birth asking for a monthly payment related to the costs of the pregnancy.
“Donna Ames was making arrangements to deliver to Ms. Rossler this court-approved payment when she received a call from Ms. Rossler’s relative who expressed concern that Ms. Rossler was scamming the adoptive parent,” Kilborn wrote.
After reviewing Rossler’s page, Ames says she noticed several posts that suggested Rossler was intending to keep her child.
“Given that Ms. Rossler had just that day asked for more money and had arranged for the adoptive parent to attend a doctor’s appointment the next day, Donna Ames was, to say the least, perplexed by Ms. Rossler’s Facebook posts,” the letter reads.
In her statements to the media, Ames said due to the conflict she dropped Sharp (the adopting mother) as a client, at which point Sharp retained the services of another attorney. From that point on, Ames claims she wasn’t involved with anything involving the custody of baby Elliott, including the deputies visit to Rossler’s home.
“Donna Ames and Adoption Rocks, Inc. were out of the picture before the baby was even born,” Kilborn wrote. “Yet, Huffington Post’s article is written as if Donna Ames and Adoption Rocks, Inc. had something to do with the events that occurred following the baby’s birth.”
As a result, Ames says she’s been inundated with hate mail and the response to the story has almost completely ruined her and her business.
“Donna Ames no longer answers her telephone,” Kilborn wrote. “Adoption Rocks, Inc., a nonprofit that promotes adoptions as an alternative for unplanned pregnancies, has — almost overnight — lost substantially all of its support within the community.”
As a result, Kilborn is demanding not only a full retraction, but also a front-page apology to Ames and to Adoption Rocks.
Lagniappe reached out to Rossler for comment on this report, but was directed to her attorney David Kennedy. Given the ongoing nature of the case, Kennedy wouldn’t make any comments about the adoption proceedings.
He did briefly address Kilborn’s letter to Huffington, though.
“I will say that Mr. Kilborn’s statements about Mrs. Rossler are misplaced,” Kennedy said. “They will be proven demonstrably false.”