A Smithville woman at the center of a 2018 endangered child alert who was found guilty of custodial interference in a Williamson County court in July was sentenced to two years of supervised probation on Friday.
45-year-old Wendy Dawn Hancock must also submit to regular drug and alcohol testing and truthfully testify in the upcoming case of her co-defendant, Brentwood attorney Connie Lynn Reguli, who is scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 20 for the charges of facilitating custodial interference and two counts of accessory after the fact.
Hancock’s case stems from a August 2018 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation endangered child alert for 12-year-old Bowling, calling Hancock Bowling’s “non-custodial mother,” and citing charges of domestic assault and contributing to the delinquency of a child against Hancock.
The girl and Hancock were later located at Reguli’s Brentwood home.
According to the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, Reguli has practiced law since 1994 and has faced numerous professional challenges and disciplinary actions including censures and suspensions, including several 2012 misconduct complaints involving restitution payments to clients and false claims about Reguli's professional certifications.
The dramatic trial included several private citizens from inside and outside of the Middle Tennessee area who were acting as “court watchers.”
These dozen or so people were encouraged to attend by Reguli, who has a strong social media following and runs the The Family Forward Project, which describes itself on their Facebook page as “an organization to help families grow stronger and sometime[s] recover in the face of government intrusion.”
Specifically, Reguli claims in a variety of social media posts that DCS, and its various forms at the state level across the nation, is corrupt and not working in the best interest of either children or families.
After the trial, Reguli expressed her grievances on her Facebook page alongside one of the “court watchers,” where she claimed that the procedures and rulings over testimonies, evidence and the general conduct of the court, which was presided over by Judge Joseph A .Woodruff, spelled trouble for the rights of parents and families, which she argues have been infringed.
Those “court watchers” served as distractions for Judge Woodruff, who on several occasions throughout the three day trail, heard allegations from the prosecution as well as Williamson County Sheriff’s Office deputy who works in the courthouse that at least one of the “court watchers” was attempting to share information with Reguli before she had testified.
That “court watcher” was called to testify in relation to the allegation and denied that he was attempting to undermine the integrity of the court.
Judge Joseph Woodruff also addressed some of the “court watchers” who were filming and uploading daily recap videos of the trial, which the prosecution said could have been seen by a member of the jury.
Some of these videos and social media posts by “court watchers” related to the case allege that DCS and law enforcement are involved in the “kidnapping” of children, and the jury, who were not in the courtroom for these discussions, were barred from researching or communicating with anyone about the case while the trial was going on.
Hancock’s case was complicated by the nature of criminal investigations involving minors, as all records and testimonies in a juvenile court are sealed from the public, making any claims by critics of DCS and their alleged potential failings hard to examine or understand.
Reguli will now stand trial later this month.