Saturday, August 16, 2008

Parental Kidnapping and Amber Alerts - Crockefeller Provides Teachable Moment

Since the case of Crockefeller (the man who most recently called himself "Clark Rockefeller" and who apparently has used numerous other names since coming to this country from Germany as Christian Gerhartsreiter) has begun to dominate the news, several people have asked me how a father can be charged with kidnapping his own son. (Whatever this man's identity, there is no question that he is the father of the child he took away during a supervised visit in Boston.) My previous posts on this case are here (right after the arrest in Baltimore) and then here(Crockefeller, His Lawyer and the Media).

I respond that parents can indeed "kidnap" their own children, and there are "parental kidnapping" laws which make it a crime for parents to kidnap their own children, such as the Massachusetts law, Chapter M.G.L. 265, Section 26A ("Kidnapping of minor or incompetent by relative")under which Crockefeller has been charged:

Whoever, being a relative of a child less than eighteen years old, without lawful authority, holds or intends to hold such a child permanently or for a protracted period, or takes or entices such a child from his lawful custodian, or takes or entices from lawful custody any incompetent person or other person entrusted by authority of law to the custody of another person or institution shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than one year or by a fine of up to one thousand dollars, or both. Whoever commits any offense described in this section by taking or holding said child outside the commonwealth or under circumstances which expose the person taken or enticed from lawful custody to a risk which endangers his safety shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Some of the confusion may be the result of Crockefeller's lawyer's initial reported statements casting doubt on the viability of the kidnapping charge. In response, the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Blog then issued a post on the criminal statute and case law interpreting it to explain how parents who take or hold children in violation of a valid custody order can indeed be charged, and convicted, of parental kidnapping.

Now I have just read another excellent post, with some good links to other informative sites, at the Updates in Michigan Family Law Blog, by Jeanne Hannah, an attorney with a lot of experience with parental kidnapping cases; her blog discusses the Crockefeller case, amber alerts and parental kidnapping: Amber Alerts-When Are They Used?

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website, and for information about Massachusetts criminal law, see the criminal defense page.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crockefeller, His Lawyer, and the Media

As I previously stated here right after "Clark Rockefeller" was arrested, there's got to be more to the weird story of Crockefeller and Snooks, and we're bound to hear more soon. Well we have now heard quite a bit more, and even some from Crockefeller's own lawyer.

The Boston Globe had an article in today's paper, Lone defender savors high-profile case - by Jonathan Saltzman, about Crockefeller and his lawyer, Stephen Hrones, who has taken his case to the press with a vengeance. This is precisely the kind of case in which going to the press is necessary, as the case is going to be tried in the media initially anyway, and something from the defendant needs to be heard.

But the article discusses speculation and second guessing by other lawyers about the lawyer's tactics, particularly Hrones' decision to reveal some rather uncomfortable facts about his client's past. I wouldn't second guess this very experienced, and very effective attorney's decisions. It is hard for any of us to know whether Crockefeller's attorney is making the right moves or not, because we don't know what he knows from his own client.

But there are some beliefs I have about the case as a result of what he is doing. Given the way that Crockefeller's attorney is handling this case, and divulging information, I would assume that there is too much bad news and he has a huge, huge need for damage control. It's akin to bringing out some very inconvenient truths by your witness on direct to take out some of the sting of cross examination.

"I'm going to enjoy the ride as long as it goes," said Hrones, who characterizes the case as the climax of his career. "But I'm protecting my client. He goes first."

But whether Hrones is helping his client or hurting him through news interviews is a matter of debate in Boston legal circles.

Damon Scarano, a lawyer who has known Hrones for years, said Hrones has humanized his client by sharing what Rockefeller says he remembers about his past. Hrones has told reporters that Rockefeller speaks German but does not remember growing up in Germany. Rockefeller also remembers "bits and pieces" of his childhood, a Scottish nanny and a visit to Mount Rushmore in a station wagon, for example, Hrones said.

"I think he's handling it very well," Scarano said of Hrones. "He's been very low-key on this. Usually, he's very hyper."

But other lawyers say privately that Hrones may have hurt his client by telling reporters Monday that Rockefeller recalls living in a guesthouse in San Marino, Calif., that he rented from John and Linda Sohus, a young couple, and John's mother, Didi, in the early 1980s. Hrones said Rockefeller also recalls when John and Linda Sohus went missing in 1985. The remains of a man believed to be John Sohus were found on the couple's property in 1994, and his wife has never been found. Both are presumed dead, authorities say.

The alleged admission by Hrones, said some lawyers, may have put his client at the scene of a homicide.

Hrones has also confirmed Rockefeller's use of aliases, saying there is nothing wrong with using another name if one does not commit fraud. "You members of the press, you could call yourselves Joe Blow or anything, and it'd be no crime," he told reporters Monday evening.

As it happens, Hrones said, he met Rockefeller several weeks ago, before the alleged kidnapping. A mutual friend whom Hrones declined to identify introduced the lawyer to Rockefeller in Boston. After Rockefeller was arrested Aug. 2 in Baltimore and his daughter, Reigh Storrow Mills Boss, was found unharmed, Rockefeller called his friend and asked him to get in touch with Hrones.

Hrones, a Harvard-educated son of an MIT professor, has long had a deep distrust of authority and sympathy for people in trouble. In the 1960s, he protested the Vietnam War outside the Pentagon. In recent years, he has denounced the Boston Police Department for several wrongful convictions.

His successes included a 2004 ruling that erased the conviction of Angel S. Toro, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Howard Johnson's clerk in Dorchester during a 1981 holdup. Toro is still serving a sentence of three years to life for an unrelated murder conviction in Florida.

"I had about 14 attorneys since he was arrested, and without a doubt, he was the most effective," said Toro's wife, Debra, of Melrose.

Robert A. George, another defense lawyer, said that "when the world seems to be crashing down all around a defendant, there is not a better person to be fighting for your life."

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website, and for information about Massachusetts criminal law, see the criminal defense page.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Economics of Gay Marriage

I have long been waiting for the Law and Economics blogging professor duo from the University of Chicago - Judge Richard Posner and Gary Becker - to address gay marriage on their blog. Well, the wait is over, as they both specifically addressed the issue today. See Judge Posner's post The Economics of Gay Marriage and Gary Becker's post Should Gay Marriages be Allowed? Gary Becker's piece is especially interesting, as he discusses not only gay marriage, but also polygamy, in a short piece that contemplates, and advocates, marriage as a private contract with minimal interference from the government.

Of course, a must-read for anyone interested in the law and economics of the family is Gary Becker's fascinating tome A Treatise on the Family, recently updated and expanded. Becker won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992.

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bush's Chauffeur Sentenced to "Time Served" For His Role in Aiding and Abetting Bush's War Crimes, But Will Be Held Indefinitely As Enemy Combatant

Just kidding.

No, that would be Osama Bin Laden's chauffeur, not George Bush's. See today's story about Bin Laden's chauffeur, Salim Hamdan, getting a sentence of 5 1/2 years. He's already served 5 years but don't expect him to get out in half a year with "time served" as he is expected to be held indefinitely as an "enemy combatant" despite the military jury verdict's acknowledgement, even in the kangaroo court in which our government had both of its thumbs on the scales, that he was just a bit player.

Remember, Bush told us he is the "decider". He gets to decide to kill innocent civilians in an illegal war and lie about that with impunity, but he also gets to redefine what a war crime is so that he can otherwise punish those he wants to punish, by labeling them war criminals and then locking them up indefinitely as "enemy combatants" even after their kangaroo court sentences are over.

But no, Bush's own crimes do not count. For more on that, see John Dean's discussion, at Findlaw's Writ, of the Kucinich impeachment resolution FindLaw's Writ - Dean: Congressman Kucinich's Impeachment Resolution, the Parallel to Nixon, and Why Even Nixon's Defenders Finally Abandoned Him.

When I studied international law in law school, and my international law professor Louis Sohn kept leaving for Washington to advise the Bush I regime on the first Iraq War (at a time when international law seemed to get some degree of respect and attention instead of creative disregard and blatant disrespect), I recall hearing that the most fundamental, actual rule of "international law" is "might makes right." If that was true then, it sure as hell is true now.

Well, God Bless America. And God Bless our Decider.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paris Hilton, Barack Obama and John McCain

After the release of McCain's political ad attacking Obama as a celebrity who is not ready to lead (and juxtaposing images of Obama with those of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton)-

Paris Hilton made the following video in response. Pretty funny.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Rockefeller" Arrested In Baltimore After Kidnapping His Daughter "Snooks" in Boston

Crockefeller and Snooks. Hardly your everyday kidnapping.

I have followed with interest the recent news about the apparent con-man and divorced father, who calls himself Rockefeller (dubbed "Crockefeller" by the NY Daily News), who recently kidnapped his daughter in Boston after she returned with her mother from England for his first visit with the child after the move.

Apparently during the marriage, the mom had worked, and dad stayed home with the child, but eventually the couple split, reportedly at least in part because of the fact that this man who called himself "Clark Rockefeller" was a con-man, not at all related to the famous Rockefeller family, and without any kind of identity papers he could provide, although he moved easily within high society circles in Boston and New York.

He nonetheless got some of the assets in Massachusetts from their divorce here and agreed to let mom take custody and move with their daughter to England. Subsequently, and quite recently, it seems "Crockefeller" made a bad, bad move in kidnapping the child and disappearing out of state. He was just found in Baltimore yesterday. Snooks appears to be okay.

Boys and girls, this is not the way to conduct a marriage, a divorce, or a post-divorce visitation schedule. The craziest thing is that, apparently the father, despite being a con artist, a fraud, and a kidnapper, was otherwise somehow a good father to the child during the marriage. There's got to be more to this weird story, and we're bound to hear more soon. We'll have to pay close attention. You just can't make this stuff up.

For the latest reports, see the following news stories, in reverse chronological order:

1)FBI Busts Rockefeller (Boston Herald, August 3, 2008)

2)Suspected kidnap dad Clark Rockefeller in FBI custody in Maryland (New York Daily News, August 2, 2008)

3)Snooks' mom filed divorce over Clark's Crockefeller ruse (New York Daily News, August 1, 2008)

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.