Felony Kidnapping Charges Against
West Marin Mom Are Dropped
By Jim Scanlon
preliminary hearing on February 10, 2005, visiting judge Winslow Christian
reduced to a Misdemeanor, the Felony charge of violating a consent decree
(278.5 PC) filed in August 2000 against Jonea Rogers who, in desperation, sold
her East Bay condominium, closed her San Rafael hair salon and left her family
and friends in the Bay Area and fled with her three and a half year old
daughter because of her anxiety and fear that Marin's Family Court and Child
Protective Services were unwilling, or unable, to support her in protecting her
In his unusual ruling, Judge Christian permitted defense attorney Peter Goodman to present exculpatory testimony at a preliminary hearing. The Assistant District Attorney prosecuting the case strenuously objected to the ruling and the judge's finding, but, at another preliminary hearing on February 22, there was no indication of an appeal which would delay the trial now set for early May.
Before leaving, Rogers and others had made reports of neglect (an untreated bruised eye) and suspected child sexual abuse, which were unresolved and paradoxically may have resulted in a failed attempt to totally remove her daughter from her custody. (See: "At The End Of Her Rope" and "Bleak Prospects For Runaway Mom And Daughter," Coastal Post June & August 2004.)
At the time Rogers went into exile, Marin's Superior Court was in great disarray due to sustained, outspoken public criticism of Family Law Court and Judge Michael Dufficy who eventually resigned from Family Law "for health reasons." The criticism resulted in an failed attempt to recall Dufficy and District Attorney Paula Kamena.
A Related Case
The complaints against Kamena were largely based on dissatisfaction with her prosecution and jailing of Carol Mardeusz, a former court reporter, for allegedly violating a consent decree ordering her to have no contact with her daughter. Mardeusz was later convicted by a jury in Marin and evaluated in State Prison, before eventually serving several months in the county jail. She is still on probation. The father had been given full custody of his daughter in Sonoma County, without a formal hearing, after a Sonoma judge reviewed a report that concluded Mardeusz was poisoning the daughter's mind (Parent Alienation Syndrome) against her father.
The Mardeusz case resurfaced recently when the father of the daughter, now a teenager, was arrested and charged in Solano County Criminal Court with felony child abuse of his daughter and another child. Dependency Court proceedings, which are held in secret to protect the children involved, are also believed to be taking place in Solano, but a "gag" order is in effect, producing a total news blackout. This "gag" order, however, does not explain the total lack of coverage in the local print and broadcast media which covered the Mardeusz prosecution.(See: Coastal Post, February 2005, "Father Charged With Felony Child Abuse.")
The Mardeusz, Rogers, and a third case, a woman named "V," form a pattern of Marin County mothers, all forced to personally act as their own lawyers in divorce proceedings, all being jailed after reporting evidence of family violence, child abuse and/or child sexual abuse. These women, who never harmed their children, were not only denied contact with their children, but maternal family members were, and still are, denied contact. With Rogers and "V," the Marin District Attorney not only did not investigate the fathers but placed the children with them while prosecuting the imprisoned mothers for violating the visitation rights of the fathers.
Rogers was arrested in January 2004 in North Carolina when a neighbor noticed her photo and her daughter's photo on the Polly Klaas Foundation's Web Site under "Child Abduction" A Federal Warrant had been sought and obtained by the District Attorney. She was transported in custody to Marin where she remained in jail under bail of a half million dollars until it was reduced (over the objections of the District Attorney's Office) to $150,000 by a previous visiting judge. She was able to make this greatly reduced bail only with great difficulty, with the assistance of friends.
Immediately after Roger's arrest in North Carolina, her daughter was placed, without conditions, in the home of her father by the District Attorney's Office, which then withdrew from the Family Law aspect of the case, to prosecute the mother in the present criminal court proceedings. An Assistant District Attorney made the placement plan based on a determination she made, on her own, without a hearing, that there was no merit to the mother's concerns about her daughter.
Although parents who abuse and injure their children, or commit other serious offense, are routinely allowed visits by their children, Roger's daughter was never allowed to visit her mother who had been her primary parent for her entire life. No evidence was ever presented that Rogers mistreated her child in any way or committed an illegal act during her entire life-other than violate Dufficy's custody visitation decree. Since her release from jail a almost a year ago she has managed one supervised 45 minute visit.
Rogers always had custody of her daughter and part of the reason she left Marin as she stated in a farewell letter to friends, was that Dufficy ordered joint custody of her child with her ex-husband despite her concerns, concerns which were shared by other responsible people, including her pediatrician. News releases by the District Attorney's Office to the Independent Journal and communications to the Polly Klaas Foundation and the Police in North Carolina referred to the case prejudicially as a "kidnapping," although kidnapping is listed under a different penal code section and involves coercion by force or fear. Kidnapping is considered along with Arson, Rape, Carjacking, Robbery, Burglary and Mayhem as an inherently dangerous felony. Violation of a Consent Decree is what is called in the criminal justice system, a "wobbler," that is, a charge that can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony, a borderline serious crime.
Penal Code Section 207 defines kidnapping as: "Every person who forcibly or by any other means of instilling fear, steals or takes or hold, detains or arrests any person in one county and takes them to another county or state or country. Punishment is 3-8 years in prison."
A parent whose custody rights were never revoked, who goes into exile with a child to protect that child-even if found upon thorough examination to be misguided-is considered a dangerous criminal in Marin County. Referring to this mother's actions as "kidnapping" and "child abduction," is not only misleading and unprofessional but is actually delusional and there should be consequences for this kind of prejudicial behavior.
Several readers have asked the Coastal Post, "How is it possible to kidnap your own child?"
Although the Coastal Post was not present at the February 10 hearing during which the bogus kidnapping charge was dismissed, we are reliably informed that testimony was taken at that hearing which would seem to indicate that there was substantially more evidence to support Roger's fears of child sexual abuse when she left. More definite information should be available as the trial proceeds in criminal court.
If the hearsay information the Coastal Post received regarding the testimony is correct, it will reflect badly on the police, Child Protective Services, the District Attorney and Family Law Court.
The Independent Journal reported on the hearing of February 10, but it is not known if a reporter was actually present in court. The article (Kidnap charge reduced to misdemeanor, IJ 2/11/05) mentions testimony as to, " ... the intense pressure Rogers was under from the breakup of her marriage, her divorce and custody battle" and that "... Rogers had become increasingly frustrated and was trying to get more custody of her daughter..." and that "... she distrusted the girl's father and had 'no faith' in the Marin's court system"
But no mention of her fear of child sexual abuse.