March 7, 2015
WILLIAMSPORT — A federal judge says he is contemplating a sentence greater than the advisory guidelines for the woman who concealed from authorities and others knowledge that a father had illegally taken his three young sons to his native Saudi Arabia.
U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann, in a letter made public Friday, said his decision is based on information from a conference with the government and defence attorneys, a pre-sentence report and ancillary documents.
The letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney George J. Rocktashel and defense attorney Kyle W. Rude meets the requirement of notifying the defendant that a sentence greater than the guidelines is possible, the judge said.
Rude a week ago filed a memorandum asking Brann to place Cori Lynn Mancuso, 23, of Stroudsburg, on probation. The advisory guidelines call for a sentence of up to 6 months.
The probation officer who prepared the pre-sentence report recommended an upward departure because she believes Mancuso is guilty of international parental kidnapping with which she was charged before working out a plea agreement.
Rude claimed his client was following the orders of her then husband, Majed Sayed, under the strict constraints of Islam.
In a letter to the court Sayed supports Mancuso’s claim saying nothing she could have done would have stopped him from taking the kids.
Mancuso, a Lycoming College honors graduate with a major in religion and a minor in anthropology, is to be sentenced March 19.
She pleaded guilty in October to misprision of a felon, a charge that states she was aware of a felony and concealed it.
Mancuso claims she played a minor role in the kidnapping and was an accessory after the fact. Sayed was already on a plane to Saudi Arabia with his children when he made false statements to authorities, the memorandum states.
“Although she had knowledge of her husband’s general plans, there was nothing she could do to stop him from violating the [Lycoming County custody] court order and taking his children to Saudi Arabia,” Rude wrote in his court filing.
Letters written in Mancuso’s support reveal a person who was led astray during her indoctrination and conversion to her Muslim faith, he said.
“Sayed taught her only part of the Muslim religion and changed her mindset from helping others to obeying and following only the orders of her husband,” he wrote.
In the past 10 months since she returned from Saudi Arabia, Mancuso has learned how her Muslim faith should be followed and sees how naïve she was in blindly following Sayed’s orders, he said.
Mancuso and Sayed, who were living in Williamsport, proclaimed to be married in a Muslim ceremony not recognized in the United States. She obtained a divorce from him and in December married a New York University student who is a native of Egypt.
She is pursuing a career in social work with an emphasis on helping and educating American women who are covering to Islam, Rude says.
Mancuso is powerless to persuade Sayed to return to the United States with his children where he would face charges that include international parental kidnapping, her lawyer says.
“She can only apologize for her actions, as she has done in a letter to the court, pray that one day the children will be reunited with their mother,” Rude wrote.
Mancuso was jailed for four days after being arrested April 1 in New York City when she got off an airplane from Saudi Arabia. She has been subjected to a curfew and electronic monitoring since then.
Sayed was in the master’s program at Shippensburg University when on Nov. 24, 2013, he fled the country with his three sons, Muhammad, Ibrahim and Elyas, instead of returning them to their mother, Jessica Socling in the Jersey Shore area.
When she pleaded guilty, Mancuso said Sayed planned the abduction weeks in advance and was upset Socling had used the American court system to win primary custody of his sons with him having limited visitation rights. She joined him in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7, 2013.
The United States does not have an extradition treaty with the Saudis for domestic matters causing Rude to point out in his memorandum only his client will be punished.
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