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Fort Worth family law attorney convicted of adoption-document forgery
FORT WORTH — Tarrant County prosecutors contended that family law attorney Kimberly Ashley-Stevens forged an adoptive mother’s signature on a 2006 court document, making the adoption invalid when the forgery was discovered nearly two years later.
Defense attorneys argued that Ashley-Stevens, 40, was the scapegoat for a botched adoption that they blamed on the adoptive mother and other attorneys in the case.
Jurors sided with the state Monday, convicting Ashley-Stevens of three felony charges connected to the forgery of an affidavit needed to terminate the biological parents’ rights. When the forged signature of adoptive mother Kristy Ward was discovered, the Aug. 23, 2006, termination order and the Aug. 30 adoption were set aside.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for three hours before convicting Ashley-Stevens of fabricating evidence, tampering with government records and presenting the forged document to 324th District Judge Jerome Hennigan, who granted the termination and adoption.
Ashley-Stevens, whose attorneys called no witnesses in the first phase of the trial, showed no reaction when the verdict was returned.
But she cried quietly outside state District Judge Elizabeth Berry’s Criminal Court No. 3 while awaiting the beginning of the punishment phase of her trial.
She faces up to 10 years in prison on the fabricating charge and two years in a state jail on the other two charges. She is also eligible for probation.
Today, the jury will continue hearing evidence that Ashley-Stevens used forged documents in at least two other cases: a second adoption and an annulment.
As they began the punishment phase, prosecutors Joe Shannon and David Lobingier called the adoptive mother and the judge in a case from Sept. 30, 2005.
The woman, Lucretia McMicken, said she and her husband were house parents at Christ Haven, a private foster-care facility, when they decided to adopt a 15-year-old girl whose father had abandoned her.
McMicken said they hired Ashley-Stevens because she had handled a custody matter for another Christ Haven resident.
The teen asked Associate Judge Lisa Beebe to preside over the adoption because she was friends with Beebe’s daughter and another teen Beebe had helped place there, McMicken said.
Attorney Terry Hickey’s signature was on the order terminating parental rights, but she is expected to testify today that she did not sign it. She is also expected to testify that Ashley-Stevens later acknowledged signing her name but that Ashley-Stevens said she thought she had Hickey’s permission to do so.
On Monday, Beebe said that if she had known that Hickey’s signature had been forged, she would not have granted the adoption.
On cross-examination by defense attorney Abe Factor, Beebe acknowledged that Ashley-Stevens was so well-respected as a family law attorney that she was on a list of attorneys who filled in for Beebe when she was absent.
Prosecutors also plan to call witnesses to testify that former 322nd District Judge Frank Sullivan’s signature was forged on a 2005 annulment order in a case that Ashley-Stevens was handling.
Factor and co-counsel Lisa Hoobler have not said whether they intend to call witnesses in the punishment hearing.