Grandmother of Brown’s son sues for custody
The maternal grandmother of Vallejo City Councilmember Hakeem Brown’s 9-year-old son is suing for full guardianship, according to court documents obtained by the Times-Herald.
Petitioner Sara Bunn is the mother of the slain ex-wife of Brown, Chana Brown, who was allegedly killed by her ex-partner, Kenyatta Bellamy, on March 27 of last year. Hakeem Brown’s son was at home during his mother’s violent murder with a hammer when the suspect allegedly set the house on fire. Bellamy now faces a possible capital murder trial in Florida.
In court paperwork filed on March 1 of this year, Bunn petitioned to be appointed guardian for her grandson, in order to “protect his emotional and educational well being, to return him to a nurturing environment of love, familiarity and healing, and to protect him from his father who has committed a lifelong series of violent and criminal acts, who continues to have severely unmanaged anger management issues, and in whose care (the child) is suffering emotional harm.”
Brown, who ran an unsuccessful mayoral campaign last year, has a criminal history of either charges or convictions ranging from domestic battery, forgery, drug sales, trafficking of narcotics, burglary, and battery, according to the court filing in this case.
Independent journalists from Open Vallejo obtained transcripts of police testimony in a preliminary hearing regarding Brown’s son’s mother, Chana Brown, that describe alleged abuse at the hands of her thenhusband, Hakeem Brown.
A police officer arriving for a welfare check at Chana’s residence in 2012 at the request of her mother described seeing a woman who was “just a shell, not even like anybody there,” and “like an abused dog that just cowers all the time.” The deputy told a court that Chana was a “classic example of an abused woman as described in the academy.”
The officer also reported that she had bruising under her eyes, a cut earlobe with dried blood, and a swollen cheek.
Brown denies abusing Chana and was never convicted for anything related to Chana Brown’s alleged abuse, though he pleaded “no contest” to a misdemeanor offense of disobeying a stay-away order placed by Chana. As to the allegations of criminality set
down in Bunn’s court filing, Brown says in his opposition to her suit, “(Bunn’s) statement about my criminal record and accusations is half-truths and outright lies.”
Brown has been convicted of three charges of domestic violence unrelated to Chana, according to documents obtained by Open Vallejo.
After Chana’s death, Hakeem Brown received custody of their son.
Bunn alleges that Brown has withheld contact with the child from her and her family since October 6, 2020, which she alleges is “punishment” for disclosing information regarding Chana’s alleged abuse in relation to a journalistic investigation into his mayoral candidacy.
Bunn also alleges that Brown has refused any visitation with his son. Bunn says that she helped raise the child, and that the two “have shared a close and loving relationship since his birth,” and that not
having contact with her is causing him emotional harm.
After her daughter’s death, Bunn filed for adoption of the child and for termination of the father’s parental rights, according to the court filing. Bunn alleges she did not file for guardianship at the time, which is different from adoption, “because she did not believe that Father would contest, as he had abandoned the child for his entire life.”
She further alleges that the child is “the only of Father’s several children with whom he has any relationship, and (the relationship has existed) only since his mother’s murder.”
Bunn alleges that Brown had “very sporadic contact” with his son until he was two, and then “no contact — not a phone call, a letter, card, gift, text message, child support, or acknowledgment of any sort” — until after Chana’s death.
Brown contested Bunn’s petition for adoption and took legal custody of his son after Chana’s death. The judge in that case wrote that Bunn, “failed to present competent substantial
evidence that Father intentionally abandoned the child. Rather, Father offered testimony that Mother took the child from him, limited his contact, secreted the child from him, and avoided service of process when he attempted to obtain a dissolution of marriage and timesharing with the child.”
Bunn alleges that Brown represented to the court that he would “allow liberal visitation with (child’s) maternal relatives and would get counseling for (child)” once in his custody.
In the times that Bunn has been able to communicate with the child, she alleges that Brown became “rageful” and “made disparaging remarks” about her and her family, including the child’s mother. One call allegedly “left her shaking and frightened for herself and for her grandson,” the court filing alleges.
Bunn also alleges seeing “signs of distress” in the child, saying that he has sounded “depressed and frightened,” and would only answer with yes-orno responses with “no details” about his day or experiences.
Papers filed by Brown’s lawyer in objection to Bunn’s appointment of guardianship allege several things. Brown asserts that this current case is the “third attempt of my son’s mother and grandmother to take him away from me.”
Brown alleges that Chana “moved around a lot and didn’t have a stable home for years,” so he was unable to locate his son easily, saying “I tried to find Chana and (child) for years, even hiring a private investigator.” He also alleges that the child’s mother didn’t flee from California to escape domestic violence, but rather because she didn’t approve of Brown’s cannabis dispensary business (he owns Life Enhancement Services on Broadway Street).
Bunn alleges in her court filing that Chana “fled” California because Brown “threatened to kill” her if she didn’t drop the criminal charges against him stemming from her alleged abuse. Chana dropped the charges and left the state as a result, Bunn claims.
Brown states in his court filing that his son is “doing well” in his custody. He said that he has gotten his son counseling and that his nightmares have stopped, and that the counseling is now on an “as-needed” basis.
Brown alleges that his son is “doing well in school and excelling” and spending time with friends that he has made. Brown says he takes his son along with him when he feeds the homeless and enrolled him in a boxing program over the summer.
Miranda Barber, attorney for Brown, provided the following statement to the Times-Herald: “Mr. Brown is happy to have been reconciled with his son years after his son was wrongfully removed from California and is grateful for the Florida judge who made it happen. It is a shame that rather than coming together to support the child through the trauma of losing his mother, her family has focused their energies on attacking the child’s father. Mr. Brown is determined his son will not fall prey to the statistics of black children growing up without their fathers.”