Parental Abduction or Child Abuse?

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family-courtJudge Denies Kidnapping Charges For Now, Citing DV History of Father

by Antoinnette Borbon

As we learned in the trial of the Korean mother, Nan-Hui Jo, she said she fled to another country in order to protect herself and her daughter from the father who admitted, in open court, to having physically attacked Ms. Jo at least twice. Ms. Jo had been the victim of domestic violence and she feared her estranged boyfriend, the father of their little girl.

But the Yolo County Child Abduction Unit was contacted by the father. Ms. Jo was ultimately charged and convicted, after two trials, of kidnapping their daughter. Jurors disregarded the domestic violence and the system ultimately returned the child to the father, once Ms. Jo was taken into custody.

However, in a case before Judge Thomas Warriner last week in family court, requests by the deputy district attorney were temporarily denied until the mother had been contacted and could be present in court.

During the court hearing last week, Claire Benoit, the mother of four children, fled to France in fear of her estranged husband, Eric Gilson. Mr. Gilson reported her to the Child Abduction Unit of Yolo County for taking the children.

But according to Ms. Benoit it was a fear of domestic violence that led her to leave with the children. Ms. Benoit told her attorney that “the children will be unsafe if left with the father, he is a dangerous man.”

Court records showed a conviction of felony domestic violence, causing corporal injury on a spouse, and felony stalking by Mr. Gilson involving his ex-wife. He is on probation for those convictions in another county.

Judge Warriner stated, “I can’t ignore those convictions.”

Deputy DA Tiffany Susz explained to the judge that “some of the allegations by mom have been corroborated but we are still investigating this case.”

Ms. Susz requested an order for Ms. Benoit to return but Judge Warriner refused to make any order until the mother was contacted.

The attorney for Ms. Benoit explained that “the mom has concerns of mental health illness and Mr. Gilson has not been taking his medication. Your honor, she has a legitimate cause to keep her children safe.”

“We are only asking for a verifiable address for her and the children,” the DDA stated. She told the court that the district attorney’s office has tried to contact her but Ms. Benoit has not responded.

“We asked her to check into a U.S. Embassy and call us,” stated the DDA.

Ms. Susz said they have offered to pay for her safe return and to put her in protected housing. But Ms. Benoit will not comply, asserted the DDA.

The attorney for Ms. Benoit told the court that her client is frightened they will arrest her if she tells the DA where she resides.

In September of 2015, a judge ordered only supervised visitation for the father and awarded sole custody to Ms. Benoit after allegations of domestic violence. On November 2, 2015, the court ordered supervised visitation with the father (Mr. Gilson) but Benoit was not present.

When the district attorney’s office contacted her on November 16, Ms. Benoit stated that she had been unaware of the court hearing.

Judge Warriner sent the attorneys to the mediation room to try to contact Ms. Benoit. Judge Warriner stated, “I am not making any order without her present so go try to make contact with her, “

It was unknown at this time whether a contact attempt was successful, but the matter will be heard again on a later date.

Meanwhile, in a letter to Judge Kathleen White from early 2015, Ms. Benoit noted that she had petitioned the court to establish paternity so that her youngest son by Mr. Gilson could receive financial benefits, and she was not expecting any conflict.

She alleged that her son was “the product of rape” but was told by Judge White that “rape was irrelevant to our children as it was an abuse of me – ‘not the kids.'”

She further noted that Judge White required that she “only share abusive incidents that were ‘less than three months old.'” She explained in the letter, “I felt totally defeated as I had expressed in the court that my children and I had not heard from Eric for more than four months preceding my petitioning your court – therefore I truly was left with ‘nothing’ to substantiate my fears before you.”

She added, “I wish I’d have taken the time to procure the right counsel but as Eric had been mostly absent from our lives and as most abuses have relative documentation – I was naive in assuming that I didn’t need any. I do believe had I have gotten professional advice, I’d have not made these mistakes that left my children wide open for rulings that have placed them in imminent danger. I am begging you to afford me the opportunity to present my side of this story by phone in hopes that you will modify your recent custody order that threatens the lives of my children by Eric.”

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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11 thoughts on “Parental Abduction or Child Abuse?”

  1. Tia Will

    She alleges that her son was “the product of rape” but was told that is “rape was irrelevant to our children as it was an abuse of me – “not the kids”.”

    This is a fascinating point if true.  I do not know the accuracy of this statement or who told her. Could someone enlighten me about this aspect of the law ?

    However, if this is indeed the law, then it needs to be changed immediately. Rape is an act of physical aggression, violence and power, not sexuality. Is our legal system blind to the harm done to children living in a situation in which “rape” is ok as far as they are concerned because it is only perpetrated on the mother ? Do we really want to normalize the action of rape in the eyes of children ? Extending that principle a little further, would we not incarcerate a rapist to protect other potential victims even if he had only raped one individual ?

     

    1. David Greenwald

      Just understand where that statement came from – it came from the mother, her interpretation of what the court said. It is therefore a filtered comment and not necessarily reflective of the state of the law.

  2. Tia Will

    David

    That is why I asked for the clarification from someone who knows. I do know that at the time of my divorce, I got a similar ( although not identical) bit of advice from my lawyer. I was told that in order to gain sole custody in the state of California required an extremely high burden of evidence of what was clearly emotional (not physical) abuse frequently on me, but on occasion also on the children. The example I was given was that I would have to have proof of something as egregious as using drugs in the presence of the children to limit his parental rights.

  3. skeptical

     
    You are asking for a rational explanation for a system that is not rational.  In practice, the legal system does not follow logic or the law.  If it did, then the process and its results could be easily explained and understood.  Under a rational process, nearly anyone would be able to represent themselves; especially in the family court. Yet, the first admonishment by all of the legal participants is not to enter the legal system without a lawyer.  Unless you think all lawyers are merely corrupt or self-serving, that’s sound advice. They know the legal system is irrational and chases money and its own bizarre sentiments; particularly, in the family court. 
     
    Within such a system there is no limit to the sleazy tactics advised and employed by lawyers, and allowed and rewarded by equally sleazy judges.  Watch Divorce Corp. as an overview, and you should see how Ms. Gilson’s reluctance to submit to further abuse from Ms. White is a perfectly rational response.  If Ms. Gilson’s behavior is irresponsible, if it jeopardizes the children, if it deprives the rights of the father, the fault rests entirely with Ms. White.  The rational response is to hold Ms. White accountable for the injustice she created.
     

    1. Davis Progressive

      i don’t completely agree with that.  it follows the logic and law as has been construct.  the problem is that the law is flawed and fails to protect vulnerable people.

  4. MamaBear

    THANK YOU for covering this story for me. I am the mother in question.

    I am so very grateful for the recent modifications that have taken place.

    Still I am nervous about what to expect next. I NEVER in a million years would have imagined losing custody of my kids as I had for no logical reason… whatsoever. I have been told that judge White’s husband has been very ill. I want to leave room for the benefit of the doubt and rationalize that perhaps she just wasn’t 100% in the last few hearings. The alternative explanations are too frightening for me to succumb to. Keeping the faith.

    I am now in the Netherlands as I was scared into semi-hiding by the developments in the court.

    I am posting here now as I have agreed to meet with a someone from the Netherlands US Consulate this Friday January 15th. His name is Charles Hendrix. Tiffany Susz of the Yolo DA Child Abduction Unit has assured me that the sole purpose of this meeting is to verify my address. Hoping and praying that this is an honest intention and not something else… (Which is partly why I am posting here).

    I asked if I could instead procure a residency printout from the Dutch Immigration Police along with a notarized proof of location with a US Apostille. It seems this would suffice just as well as a meeting with someone from the Embassy. Tiffany has told me that this is not acceptable as the court order specifies meeting with the embassy. This was not requested by the judge, but rather validated by the judge when the DA’s office requested it.

    Anyway, please send good energy and support.

    I cannot stress enough how bizarre this entire ordeal has been. It feels like fiction and I am hoping for a fast and happy ending. A book I’d never read twice!

    Thank you again.

    1. Biddlin

      Good luck and if possible take local counsel with you. I am suspicious of the actual intent of the meeting and wonder what protections you may have, once you are inside the consulate.

      1. MamaBear

        Yes I was nervous about that too. This official is coming to my location – which hasn’t eased my fears much… It’s a catch 22 because I have seemed defiant for my reluctance to return after judge White’s rulings. But White’s rulings were so bizarre and scary that they’ve made it really hard for me to trust the system. If I seem paranoid now, it’s because I have been given reason to be.

        Judge White gave my two TODDLERS – the youngest of which is the documented product of rape, to an adjudicated batterer who is permanently disabled by mental illness and has a TEN year restraining order against him for DV.

        If a parent told me this story 6 months ago I’d have believed they were lying or leaving something critical out. Now I know better – and it’s very troubling. Hoping for the best. Thank you again.

  5. Tia Will

    If a parent told me this story 6 months ago I’d have believed they were lying or leaving something critical out.”

    As a clinician who provided input into safe child placement from the medical perspective and watched that factual information be ignored in the California family court system in souther California and ten years later as a parent with my own contentious ( such a polite word in my case) divorce and custody issues, these stories are not rare. My experiences bordered on the surreal as I watched children returned again and again to clearly abusive parents because the parents biological rights supersedes the right of the child to a nurturing caretaker. Later, in my own situation, I watched my children’s right to adequate mental health care and educational choices blocked by the demands of their biologic father for the same reason. Our family courts both in Northern and Southern California hold the principles of family reunification and the principle of parental ownership of the child above the well being of the child on a regular basis. This is nothing that anyone should be surprised about, but something we should be attempting to change.

    MamaBear

    I wish for your safety and happiness and a peaceful resolution to these turbulent times for you.

    1. MamaBear

      Thank you. I am very stressed out about this Friday meeting. I am not ordinarily paranoid but this whole ordeal has been so bizarre.

      One correction to the excellent article : this man and I were never married. His ex-wife was also battered and abused by him. Much of his record involves her and other women.

      He had very little to do with my kids. Was at neither birth. I doubt they’d recognize him for the handful of times they’ve seen him. He never attempted any rights to them until I petitioned the court to establish paternity

      He has a history or repeated violent suicide attempts and was hospitalised for several months when my 1st child by him was born.

      I wanted my kids to be entitled to social security should he actually succeed in suicide (if again attempted). As he is permanently disabled by bipolar disorder – my kids were entitled to some sort of monthly benefit too. (Judge Whites ruling enabled him to receive a settlement for these benefits as well – even though I’ve supported both kids alone their whole lives).

      The money is small potatoes at this point but underscores the irony of it all. I just wish I’d never asked this court for help.

       

      All i wanted was my kids to get whatever they could since he cannot work due to his disorders.  Now I risk losing my babies to this person… who is a real serious danger to them.

       

      There’s enough on this man to write a book. Shame on me for ever being involved with him. But now I’m stronger and getting kicked in the head by a court I thought would help my family.

      I’m just exasperated. And very scared.

       

      Thank you for the good thoughts

       

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