24.04.2015.- Mª José Carrascosa, 49, was enmeshed in one of the longest and most bitterly fought custody battles in the county. The child at the center of the case, Victoria, has been without either parent for close to a decade.
The order to free Carrascosa came after her former husband, Peter Innes, wrote a letter to the court saying he was not opposed to her release as long as she returns to Spain to be with their daughter.
Superior Court Judge Bonnie Mizdol in Hackensack read parts of the letter aloud at a brief hearing on Friday afternoon. She also read from a letter sent to her by Victoria, asking that her mother be released.
“My only wish is to be with my mother,” Mizdol said, quoting the letter.
Innes, who lives in Hasbrouck Heights, did not attend the hearing, but he said in an interview on Friday evening that he was relieved.
“If that’s what my daughter wants,” he said, “then I would not oppose that.”
He added, “I am glad it is over and she is out. I just hope she is on her way home to see our daughter.”
Carrascosa, who also did not attend the hearing, left the jail shortly after 6 p.m. It was not known where she went or who picked her up. Attempts to reach her attorney for comment were unsuccessful.
Carrascosa, a native of Spain who lived in Fort Lee before she was incarcerated, was arrested in November 2006, after she took the child to Spain despite a court order granting custody to her former husband. Carrascosa had returned to New Jersey to continue litigating the case.
A Family Court judge in Bergen County ordered her to bring the child back within 10 days or go to jail. Carrascosa refused, declaring at one point that she would rather die in jail than bring Victoria back to New Jersey. She argued unsuccessfully for years in state and federal courts that the courts in Spain have proper jurisdiction over the case.
Victoria, who was 5 when she was taken to Spain, is now 14 and has not seen either parent in that time.
Her father has said that Carrascosa’s family has prevented him from visiting his daughter and that courts in Spain have prohibited her from leaving the country until she turns 18.
Carrascosa was convicted in 2009 of willful interference with child custody and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. She was paroled last year, but as soon as she left state prison, she was taken to the Bergen County Jail, where she has been held for contempt of court for violating the order to bring back the child.
As she remained defiant for years, Carrascosa became a legal problem for judges. Under state law, incarceration for contempt of court is meant to coerce a person to comply with an order, not punish her.
“She cannot be held forever,” appellate Judge Donald G. Collester said at a hearing in 2007. “At some point in time, she will be out of jail. What are you going to do then?”
Mizdol revisited that issue at the hearing in Hackensack on Friday before she ordered Carrascosa’s release. Neither the parents nor their lawyers were present. Mizdol read her decision, which was based on filings from both sides.
“The question before this court is whether incarceration has lost its coercive power and has become punitive,” she said. “It has become clear that continued incarceration would not compel her to return her daughter, so it would be deemed punitive.”
In the interview Friday, Innes said Victoria had sent several letters to the judge to ask for the release of her mother.
Innes said he has had no contact with Victoria for several years. He called and sent her emails several times but never received a response, he said. Victoria lives in Valencia with her mother’s relatives, he said.
Innes runs a website — victoriainnes.com — that is dedicated to his daughter. He said he frequently posts messages for her and hopes she will read them.
“I want to continue to do everything I can to establish a relationship with my daughter,” he said. “I think someday, she will want to know both sides of the story. She is soon going to be an adult. I think she is going to have a natural interest in wanting to know her father and wanting to know the truth.”
Earlier, in an email, Innes said, “I know Victoria wants her mother back, and for that reason only, I support her release. I am confident that once our daughter gets to know her mother, she’ll begin to see the reality of this sad situation. It’s been 10 long years since my daughter was taken, and there’s only one thing I am sure of — no one wins in cases like this.”
Innes said the U.S. State Department makes a welfare visit to Victoria once every 18 months, and that officials there inform him that she is healthy and doing well.
He said he also learned from those officials that Victoria goes to a British school, speaks fluent English and likes the arts and horseback riding.
Innes runs his own advertising and graphic design business, has remarried and has an 8-year-old son. Asked if he would consider going to Spain to try to see his daughter, he said he would not risk that because Carrascosa had filed criminal complaints against him in Spain.
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