Judge 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.”