Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A (Somewhat) Happy Ending to a Japanese Child Abduction Case

Here is an update about an international child abduction case in which we provided extensive and continuing behind-the-scenes strategic advice to the left-behind father and his local lawyers.

Most parental child abductions to Japan end up very badly. This is an exception to the rule.

Mother who abducted daughter to Japan avoids prison
By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

After incurring contempt and criminal charges for taking her daughter to Japan during a custody dispute that lasted four years, Emiko Inoue returned the girl to her father in Fox Point last year as part of a deal that gave Inoue a chance to avoid a felony conviction.

But over the summer, a Milwaukee County prosecutor said Inoue engaged in a "direct and flagrant" violation of a deferred prosecution agreement by attempting to have Japanese courts undo a decision granting legal custody to her ex-husband and should be sent to prison.

Assistant District Attorney Mattew Torbenson backed off that position at a hearing Tuesday, withdrawing his motion after Inoue turned over documents and said under oath she hasn't obtained or sought travel documents for her or her daughter. She also said she understands her ex-husband has been granted legal custody by courts in Wisconsin and Japan.

Circuit Judge Mel Flanagan did order that Inoue be freed of GPS monitoring, explaining that the high-tech tracking technology is intended for defendants on pre-trial release only.

Inoue, 43, is Japanese with legal U.S. residency while married to Moises Garcia, a physician. She took her daughter to Japan in February 2008, shortly after Garcia had filed for divorce, and ignored court orders to return. Eventually, Inoue was arrested on a Wisconsin warrant when she went to Hawaii in April 2011 to renew her U.S. residency status. She later pleaded no contest to interfering with child custody, a felony, under an agreement that she would ultimately be convicted of a misdemeanor if her daughter was returned to Garcia, who has legal custody.

The girl, now 9, returned in December, but part of the deferred prosecution agreement was that Inoue accede to full jurisdiction and orders of Milwaukee County family court, which in February specifically ordered that she not engage in any legal efforts in Japan to alter the current custody arrangement. Two days later, she filed an appeal in Japanese courts, according to local prosecutors.

At Tuesday's hearing, her attorney Gerald Boyle supplied purported affidavits from Japanese court officials indicating there are no pending appeals there.

Boyle later said Inoue hasn't seen her daughter since turning her back to Garcia in December. Garcia's attorney, James Sakar, said that is because Inoue hasn't yet met requirements set out in family court. Garcia said Inoue did start sending their daughter some letters over the summer and that he's not opposed to her eventually having visitation if she follows court rules.

The case drew international last year. An advocacy group for parents whose children have been kidnapped and taken to other countries, usually by their other parent, said it was the first return of such a child from Japan. Not only does Japan not return children of Japanese citizens to the U.S., it does not extradite accused abductors to the U.S. either, according to the group Global Future.

Japanese TV crews covered Inoue's court appearances in Milwaukee.

Patrick Braden, the founder of Global Future, said in December he was hopeful the case will make it easier for other parents whose children were taken to Japan illegally by their other parent to bring those kids back to the U.S., but expected Japan to "do everything it can to make sure this never happens again."