Even Law Enforcement Can Get It Wrong Sometimes

Tim Santoni

We rely on law enforcement (Police, Sheriff, FBI, etc.) to “protect & serve.”  They have the difficult task of arresting and investigating people on crimes that range from moving violations to murder. And sometimes they can get it wrong especially with the latest child abduction case we were hired to investigate. I felt compelled to share my account of this case to protect others from what may have been a dangerous situation for my client and her child.

Parental Child Abduction Investigation

Our client, a mother seeking to have her child returned from the father after 11 months of being on the run, retained us to handle various aspects of the investigation. We launched an inquiry reaching out to the investigators at the District Attorney’s office and other law enforcement agencies to share our findings and gain their cooperation and assistance to have the child returned to the legal custodian and mother.

Our investigation was underway and in an effort to get the father of the abducted child to come forward, our client reached out to the press. The distressed mother was able to give an on camera plea asking for the return of her daughter.  The piece ran twice on local television and an acquaintance of the father contacted him and ultimately convinced him to come forward.

Courts and Child Abduction Cases

Even Law Enforcement Can Get It Wrong Sometimes Even Law Enforcement Can Get It Wrong Sometimes

We went in ex-parte to get the court to turn over the child to the mother and get the necessary documents served on the father.  The bailiff was able to serve the father in the courtroom for the upcoming trial.  Because there was no child abduction defense and the District Attorney had a case open, an attorney from the DA’s office was present to insure that the child was turned over to the state or the mother.  The family court commissioner stated that because the mother of the child was present there would be no reason why the child should not be turned over to her.  The emotions filled the courtroom as the mother who hadn’t seen her daughter in almost a whole year embraced her child again.  The parties were excused by the court.  The mother, daughter and legal team departed the courtroom.  The father remained seated in the courtroom and eventually departed

Legal Follow Up in Child Abduction Cases

Prior to court proceedings, the bailiff was made aware of the fact that there were outstanding warrants out on the father. The DA and the attorney for the mother also alerted the bailiff of the warrants at the beginning of the hearing. Prior to processing the father, the bailiff needed to confirm the warrants before taking him into custody.

As the parties departed the courtroom, I wanted to keep eyes on the father to insure that he didn’t confront the mother and baby.  I also overheard the bailiff on his radio asking for security assistance.  I was expecting the father to be taken into custody outside of the courtroom.  The father and his legal team departed the courtroom and proceeded outside the area. As soon as the father exited the courthouse he walked rapidly to his vehicle. I followed him closely to observe the vehicle and plate that he departed in before returning to the courthouse.

Law Enforcement System Breakdown

3D white people. Security control airport access. Metal detector

Concerned for my client’s safety, I remained in the area to make certain that the mother and daughter felt comfortable as they exited the courthouse and departed the area.  While waiting outside of the courthouse I observed the bailiff exit and frantically look for someone or something.  I overheard him say something to another deputy about the fact that the father had gotten away.  I approached the deputy and asked him what had happened.  He said that they couldn’t process the father’s paperwork fast enough because he didn’t have his date of birth.  The father knew he had outstanding warrants and made a hasty exit. I informed the deputy of the vehicle and plate he departed in and provided a picture of the fugitive.

I can’t understand how criminals can enter a courtroom with warrants and walk out without being questioned, detained and arrested.  Why not detain him until they process the warrant search?  Why can’t they find his date of birth in the pleadings that were filed with the court?  Better yet, ask the attorneys and investigators in the courtroom.

If we want to keep our courts safe and the public safe we must know who is entering our courthouses; especially those courts that are handling domestic violence, restraining orders, custody orders and abductions.

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