Thursday, December 16, 2010

Emily Koyama - Abducted to Costa Rica - An Appeal to her Mother, Trina Atwell

Emily Koyama was born in 2008 to Trina Atwell and Roy Koyama. The relationship ended and Trina took Emily to Costa Rice and wrongly retained her there. Costa Rica has issued a return order which Trina is currently defying and an arrest warrant is outstanding for her in Missouri.

Emily is now 2 and was due to fly home to Missouri this Tuesday, and back to her father who has won custody, though the court in Missouri may decide differently in future (depending on Atwell's conduct now).

The situation is rapidly escalating with US federal agencies seeking a UFAP warrant (Unlawful Flight from Prosecution) and the Costa Rican authorities looking at issuing the same.

There has to be a way forward out of this situation!

The mother, Trina Atwell, is looking at maybe facing some jail time in the US (probably none as state prosecutions are so few and far between and jailtime is almost unheard of for a mother) and surrendering to the US Embassy in Costa Rica to avoid this mess spiralling out of control.

The alternative is a life on the run in Costa Rica, eventual capture and the certainty of jail time in Costa Rica (not a good thing). Meanwhile the FBI would look to have her deported upon completion of that sentence to face jail time in the US. Emily in the interim would be in the sole care of her daddy, and likely lose many years with her mom who would be serving time in Costa Rican and US jails.

There must be a way out of this...and there is.

Trina - if you are reading this, this is your way out. You must surrender to the US Embassy with Emily. If you do this, we can immediately work on getting the prosecution in Green County MO dropped and getting you and Roy to work together for Emily's sake. No-one wants to see you go to jail or for Emily to lose you or her daddy.

This is a difficult time for you right now - take a deep breath and come forward. Do the right thing here - do not run the risk of jail in Costa Rica and Emily not being able to see you at all - you still have a chance to keep Emily in the Green County court, but you must come home and face the music now.

I'll pray for all of you, but I'll pray for you the most - please come home.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Virginia Goes Ahead with International Child Abduction Bill

I drafted an outline for a proposed Bill dealing with international Child Abduction Prevention & Recovery.

The text of the outline is reproduced below and the legal drafting is now with VA legislative services after two State Senators have agreed to act as co-Chief Patrons.

The key elements include:
  1. Creation of a specialist pool of judges to hear cases;
  2. A focus on delivering judicial education to those who need it, particularly on the Hague Convention;
  3. A mandatory reporting system;
  4. Mandated acceptance of missing child reports by the State Police;
  5. Introduction of criminal offenses for international child abduction, both TO and FROM Virginia; and
  6. The freezing and liquidation of abductor's assets and their accomplices.
This Bill builds on the work of Larry Synclair in particular and his seminal law, the Synclair-Cannon Act of California, but I hope it also takes the issue further and will deliver specific assistance to LBPs and their children.

I welcome your input - contact me at


The purpose of the proposed legislation is to deter international child abductions (ICA) and to render practical assistance to left-behind parents in the recovery of abducted children.

The proposed bill is a no-cost to taxpayers measure.

This bill will also place the Commonwealth at the forefront of international child abduction protection developments in the United States.

The bill will also contain measures to recognize the plight of children internationally abducted to the Commonwealth of Virginia from abroad.

The bill will also contain criminal penalties for non-compliance as well as provide for better-educated and experienced judges to deal with matters concerning international child issues, by ensuring adherence to existing federal guidelines (the “risk factors”) and by focusing educational efforts on a select pool of judges to deal with these issues.


1. Creation of a Pool of Judges

Currently, all state, circuit and county judges have jurisdiction over international child matters, notably with the use of the primary international treaty, The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980). This has led to inexperienced judges dealing with cases for which they are ill-suited by training, experience and temperament.

Creating a pool of judges who will be automatically assigned to hear international child issues will ensure that current educational resources are focused upon a smaller group of judges who will also be able to gain the appropriate level of experience to handle a frequently complex area of law.

2. Judicial Education

As stated in 1. above, creating a select pool of judges to handle international cases of visitation, custody and abduction will improve judicial outcomes for children and parents, as well as serve to improve the reputation of the Commonwealth as a model for handling such cases.

Educational resources will be more focused and of greater depth and value to those judges assigned or selected to constitute the pool. Particularly, greater awareness will be achieved of the issues and the framework which exists at federal and international level to assist in resolution of international child abduction and retentions, both of children abducted overseas and of children abducted from overseas to the Commonwealth.

3. Mandatory Reporting System

Currently, there is no reporting system or central repository of information on international child abduction at state or federal level. This results in confusion and disagreement on the scale of the problem of international child abduction cases. The US Department of State’s Office of Childrens Issues does not collect or collate statistics which have generic or specific value; many cases fall between the cracks in the current framework as a consequence, indeed many go unreported.

It shall be mandated that international child abductions to and from the Commonwealth be collated by a central repository body.

4. Mandatory Reporting & Law Enforcement

Upon a child not being returned to the jurisdiction, on the following day the left-behind parent shall be allowed to make, and law enforcement compelled to accept, a missing child report.

The missing child report shall be made to State Police.

Upon a child being internationally abducted to the jurisdiction, State Police shall be compelled to accept directly from the overseas left-behind parent a missing child report, or may accept one through foreign law enforcement or other administrative or law enforcement agency.

Reports shall be filed in person, by email, by telephone or by fax or any other communication medium available.

Immediately, State Police shall:

i. Enter the child as a missing child into the federal NCIC;

ii. Notify the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC); and

iii. Notify the State designated repository (see 3. above).

5. Criminal Aspects

Outgoing cases: after a 30-day grace period for the voluntary return of the child, the removal/retention shall be deemed a criminal offense.

Incoming cases: within 30 days of abduction to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the child shall be voluntarily returned. Failure to return shall be a criminal offense. Further removal of the child out of state shall be an additional criminal offense (to tackle state-hopping behavior).

6. Freezing & Liquidating Property & Assets of Abductors and Accomplices

The cost of recovering children is enormous; frequently running to hundreds of thousands of dollars for both resident and alien left-behind parents. The assets of abductors and those who render assistance and succor shall be liable to be immediately frozen upon reporting to State Police. If, after 30 days, the child is not returned, those assets are to be considered forfeit and may be liquidated to provide the left-behind parent with the funds necessary to mount recovery of their child.