USA/Brazil: Federal judge rejects domestic violence defense in Brazilian grandparents’ kidnapping case

A federal judge in Houston has affirmed a jury’s guilty verdict last month for a Brazilian couple tried on allegations that they helped their daughter in the international kidnapping of their 8-year-old grandson, in a case that garnered widespread attention from top officials in two countries.

Following the guilty verdict, defense lawyers had asked the judge to reconsider the verdict.

U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennett ruled Monday that a reasonable juror could have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt the husband and wife helped kidnap their grandson.

A reasonable juror, he said, could also have concluded based on the majority of the evidence that their daughter, codefendant Marcelle Guimaraes, was not fleeing a pattern or incident of domestic violence when she left Houston with the boy in 2013 and settled in Brazil. This so-called “affirmative defense” — that they had reason to believe she was in danger — could have effectively canceled out the kidnapping charges against them, which is what defense lawyers had asked the judge to do.


Defense attorneys Rusty Hardin and Jimmy Ardoin, who represent the boy’s grandfather and grandmother, respectively, declined to comment on the ruling.

On May 25, the jury found Carlos, 67, and his wife Jemima Guimaraes, 66, guilty of helping in an international parental kidnapping. The jury acquitted them both of conspiracy to kidnap the child.

Appeals to Congress

The jury verdict followed a three-week trial in which the boy’s father, a physician at Baylor College of Medicine, testified at length about his turbulent relationship with the child’s mother, who worked at an investment firm. In 2013, she violated their joint custody agreement in Harris County when she took their son to a family wedding in Brazil and never returned.

In the years she has been gone, state and federal courts in both countries have taken up the question of where the boy, Nico Brann, should live.

After the verdict, the judge indicated that he had questions about the decision he was willing to consider. Upon receiving the verdict slip from the jury foreman, Bennett sat looking at the paper for several minutes before reading it aloud. He did not formally accept the jury’s decision. Instead, he explained, once the jury had left the room, that he needed time to consider defense attorneys’ request that the grandparents should be cleared based on their argument that their daughter was fleeing domestic violence.

“As the judge of this court, I have to make a determination if judgment notwithstanding the verdict is appropriate,” Bennett told the lawyers. “I want to think on it.”

The child’s father, Dr. Christopher Brann, sought intervention from judges, diplomats and politicians in a five-year campaign to bring his son Nico back to Houston. The physician testified in Congress shortly before the trial and the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee, including U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, released a letter during the trial urging the Trump administration to “use every possible tool” to bring the boy back.

CALL FOR INTERVENTION: Senators call for return of Houston boy, allegedly kidnapped by mother

The federal court in Brazil determined the child should remain there with his mother. That ruling is on appeal.

Despite the rulings by Brazil’s courts, Brazil’s attorney general filed court documents supporting the U.S. stance that it should determine custody in this case.

Felipe Costi Santarosa, deputy consul general for Brazil, explained in an email, “The government of Brazil agrees that, in this case, according to the Hague Convention, it is for the U.S. (courts) to determine custody.”

Wider significance

Beyond the particulars of the Guimaraes trial, Costi Santarosa said there are deeper issues that should be considered, broadly, in international custody disputes.

“It is important to see that there is a much bigger structural problem behind this case and other similar ones,” he said.

“In times of the #metoo movement,” he said, “one must not only look to work abuses, but also to domestic misconduct against women.”

After trying the courts and diplomatic avenues, Brann reported what the executive branches of the U.S. and Brazil both consider a parental abduction to the FBI in 2015, which led to a criminal indictment.

His ex-wife, who was indicted along with her parents, is still facing trial in the case. She is considered a fugitive and remains in Brazil.

The Guimaraes are set for sentencing on Aug. 2.

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USA: Florida man held in parental kidnapping

Image result for florida flag

SALEM — A Florida man is facing charges of parental kidnapping after police say he involved his parents in a plot to take his two children from their mother in Salem last month.

But a lawyer for Richard Guillen says it’s the children’s mother who absconded with them last fall and that he had every right to bring them back to Florida.

“What has happened to my client and what has been done to him is nothing short of outrageous,” said Guillen’s attorney, David Yannetti, during Guillen’s arraignment Thursday in Salem District Court.

Guillen, 26, of Greenacres, Florida, pleaded not guilty to two counts of parental kidnapping.

Still, Salem District Court Judge Emily Karstetter said she found it “troubling” that rather than go through the proper legal process, Guillen allegedly came up with a ruse, involving his parents, to spirit the kids out of Massachusetts. She ordered Guillen held on $5,000 bail.

Prosecutor Erin Bellavia said the children’s mother contacted Salem police on May 18, two days after Guillen’s parents showed up unexpectedly at her home and asked to see the children, 3 and 4.

She agreed. But when they did not return and avoided her texts and phone calls, she grew concerned.

Late on the afternoon of May 18, the woman received a text message from Guillen’s mother admitting that he was with the children and that she wasn’t supposed to tell her, Bellavia said.

Police searched several area hotels, and called Guillen’s phone. Around 8 p.m., he returned the call, telling police he had the children, was taking them back to Florida and did not care if he faced charges because he had his children.

He also said he had not been allowed to speak to his kids more than twice since their mother took them to Massachusetts last November.

Police then asked Guillen’s cell phone provider to send a signal to his phone that would help police locate him.

He was found at a movie theater in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania with the children, who were unharmed.

Guillen was brought back to Massachusetts to answer to the charges in court on Thursday.

Bellavia had urged the judge to impose a $25,000 bail, citing Guillen’s lack of ties to the state and his “brazen” statements about not caring if police had a warrant.

The woman told police that she had moved the children to Massachusetts to escape what she said was an abusive relationship, an allegation Guillen denied.

Yannetti said there are no complaints to anyone in Florida of domestic abuse, and said that after the couple split up, they remained amicable, trading time with the children. Guillen was left as sole caretaker of the pair for two weeks last October, he said.

In January, Guillen filed a petition for custody in the Florida courts, Yannetti said.

He also cited case law, established in the case of a missing Lynn boy, Giovanni Gonzalez, who disappeared during a visit to his father Ernesto Gonzalez’s apartment in August, 2008. A parental kidnapping charge was dismissed in that case on the grounds that as a parent, Gonzalez had the right to see his son because there was no court order barring it.

If Guillen makes bail, he will have to obey a restraining order barring him from contact with the children or their mother. A pretrial conference is scheduled for June 29.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The United States feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)



Muharib Fahim Kursheed | Hernando Sheriff | Arrests

He was in violation of a court order, Hernando sheriff’s deputies said. The children were found in Clearwater.

SPRING HILL – A Spring Hill man was arrested Friday (June 8) after he took his children from their mother in violation of a court order, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

The children were found in Clearwater, deputies said. They were not harmed.

Muharib Fahim Kursheed, 38, of Spring Hill, was charged with four counts of interference with child custody and five counts of violation of an injunction.

The incident began just before 10 a.m. when Kursheed went to a home in Spring Hill where his four children live with their mother. Deputies said Kursheed sat in his vehicle outside the home and waited for the children to come out. A short time later, when the children left the house, Kursheed took all four of them.

The children’s mother got into her vehicle and followed Kursheed but lost sight of him in the area of Waterfall Drive and Spring Hill Drive. She then called 9-1-1 to report the incident.

Deputies met with her and reviewed the court order, which said the mother was to have sole custody of all four children. It was noted on the court order that the father was not allowed contact with the children or their mother.

Major Case detectives were called in to investigate.

Sheriff’s detectives worked throughout the day trying to find Kursheed, his vehicle, and/or the children. The children’s mother said that Kursheed might try to leave the state and/or the country with the children, so several detectives were assigned to follow-up on and investigate various leads.

In addition to investigating leads within Hernando County, detectives said they worked with law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Clearwater Police Department, ICE, and the FBI in an effort to find Kursheed.

About 6:30 p.m., officers from the Clearwater Police Department found Kursheed’s vehicle at the residence of one of Kursheed’s associates. Clearwater police arrested Kursheed. The children were found, unharmed, at the Clearwater house. Their mother came to Clearwater to pick them up.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental abduction to or from The United States feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)


India: India not yet ready to sign the Hague treaty

Union Minister for Woman and Child Development Maneka Gandhi.Union Minister for Woman and Child Development Maneka Gandhi.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Concerns parental abduction of kids.

The government is not yet ready to sign the Hague treaty on inter-country abduction of children by parents fleeing a bad marriage, said a senior official of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD).

There has been immense pressure from the U.S. on the government to sign the treaty though the government has long held the view that the decision could lead to harassment of women escaping marital discord or domestic violence.

“The government is not yet ready to sign the Hague treaty. If at all we do, we will follow the Japan example and put safeguards in place before acceding to the Hague treaty,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

‘Political decision’

“This is not a unilateral decision my Ministry can take. It has to be a political decision this government needs to take. We have sent the report to the Ministry of External Affairs and other Ministries, and we are waiting for a reaction from them,” WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi said at a press conference recently.

The Hague Convention is a multi-national treaty that seeks to protect children wrongfully removed by one of the parents from the custody of the other parent.

A committee constituted by the Centre to examine legal issues involved in international parental abduction submitted its report in April, opposing a central provision of the Hague Convention. It said that the criterion of habitual residence of the child, which is used to determine whether the child was wrongfully removed by a parent as well as to seek the return of the child to the country of habitual residence, was not in the best interest of the child.

Nodal body

It also recommended setting up of a Child Removal Disputes Resolution Authority to act as a nodal body to decide on the custody of the child as well as a model law to deal with such disputes.

However, the government is contemplating assigning the National Commission for Protection of Children the responsibility to adjudicate on such cases along with a judicial expert.

While the government had decided in late 2016 that it will not sign the Hague treaty, later it appointed a panel to prepare a report indicating that there was some rethinking within the government on the matter.


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USA: Troopers arrest mid-Missouri mother accused of kidnapping child

Troopers arrest mid-Missouri mother accused of kidnapping child

MACON COUNTY, Mo. – UPDATE 4:50 p.m.:  Prosecutors in Audrain County charged Toinyia Combs with one felony count of parental kidnapping on Tuesday afternoon.

ORIGINAL STORY: A mid-Missouri mother could face charges after investigators accused her of kidnapping her child on Monday night.

According to the Mexico Department of Public Safety, Toinyia Combs, 20, of Mexico, met the legal guardian of her infant boy at a public place in the 600 block of Summit Street around 9:30 p.m so she could visit the child.

Police said Combs then put the boy in a car and drove away even though the guardian tried to stop her.

Law enforcement officers across the state were told about the alleged kidnapping at 11:11 p.m. A trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol later found Combs and the infant in Macon County.

The boy was returned unhurt to his legal guardian.

Combs is held in the Macon County Jail pending Mexico Department of Public Safety and the Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney getting a warrant for parental kidnapping.

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Belgium: EU Presidency and European Parliament in deal on Schengen Information System updated rules

Written by  on June 12, 2018 in Bulgaria – Comments Off on Bulgarian EU Presidency and European Parliament in deal on Schengen Information System updated rules

The Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament reached an informal agreement on June 12 on on updated rules on the use of the Schengen Information System, an EU statement said.

The regulations cover police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, border checks, and the return of illegally staying non-EU nationals.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Valentin Radev said that the updated rules will include new categories of alerts, “closing any potential gaps and addressing new needs”.

The draft regulations address introduce several essential changes to the current system on the types of alert entered, the statement said.

“They will contribute to strengthen the fight against terrorism and serious crime, ensuring a high level of security in the EU, and will help migration management.”

The draft regulations introduce additional categories of alerts to the system.

These include alerts issued for the purpose of inquiry checks, an intermediary step between discreet checks and specific checks, which allows for interviews of individuals.

They also include alerts on unknown suspects or wanted persons, which provide for the introduction into the SIS of fingerprints or palm prints discovered at the scenes of serious crimes or terrorist offences and which are considered to belong to a perpetrator.

Also included are preventive alerts for children at risk of parental abduction, as well as children and vulnerable persons who need to be prevented from travelling for their own protection (for example, where travel might lead to the risk of forced marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking of human beings).

A further addition is alerts for the purpose of return, which require the introduction of an alert in relation to return decisions issued to illegally staying third-country (meaning, non-EU) nationals, thus improving exchange of information in relation to return decisions.

They also expand the list of objects for which alerts can be issued, to include, among other, false documents and high-value identifiable objects , as well as IT equipment.

In addition, the introduction of alerts in the SIS as regards entry bans for third-country nationals becomes compulsory.

The draft regulations introduce the possibility of using facial images for identification purposes, in particular to ensure consistency in border control procedures. It also allows for the inclusion of a DNA profile to facilitate the identification of missing persons in cases where fingerprint data, photographs or facial images are not available or not suitable for identification.

EU police agency Europol will be able to access all categories of data in the SIS and to exchange supplementary information with Member States SIRENE Bureaux.

In addition, member states must inform Europol of any hits when a person is sought in relation to a terrorist offence. This will allow Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre to check if there is any additional contextual information available in Europol’s databases.

For the purposes set out in its mandate, the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency will also have access to the alert categories in SIS.

The informal agreement will now be presented to EU ambassadors for confirmation on behalf of the Council. Following this, the regulation will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and subsequently to the Council for adoption.

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Europe: EU to strengthen Schengen Information System

To step up the fight against terrorism and illegal migration, the European Parliament and European Council negotiators on June 12 adopted three regulations to update the Schengen Information System (SIS). These are in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, in the field of border checks and for the return of illegally staying non-EU nationals.

“SIS is the spine of information exchange in Europe,” said Rapporteur Carlos Coelho (EPP, PT). “The improvements voted on by the Parliament and agreed today with Council prepare the System for the future, improve security and ensure freedom of movement. SIS will remain the biggest, most used, best-implemented database in the area of freedom, security and justice, while delivering more security to our citizens now.”

The main points of the agreement include the creation of an alert system in which EU member states are obliged to share the details of a terrorist act with all other member states. Member states will also be obliged to create new preventive alerts on children at risk of gender-based violence, such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages or parental abduction and alerts on foreign fighters and those who have been radicalised.

As regards data, the agreement is for the increased use of biometrics, including on fingerprints, palm prints, facial images and DNA with all national law-enforcement authorities. Also the SIS will contain all deportation decisions and will inform national authorities whether the period for “leaving the EU voluntarily” has expired.

Currently, there is no system in place to automatically provide information on return decisions, which are now shared on a voluntary basis.

“Member States at the moment don’t exchange information on whether a third country national has received a return decision or not,” said Rapporteur Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, NL). “Due to this lack of information exchange, a third country national with the obligation to return can easily avoid this obligation, by going to another member state. Return policies should be more efficient, otherwise it will be very difficult to maintain support for receiving those asylum seekers that are in need of our help”.

Before entering into force, the agreed text needs to be formally approved by the Civil Liberties Committee, European Parliament as a whole and the Council.

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