Another US-Italian Case Shows The Utter Futility Of Trying To Strongarm The Italian Justice System
Posted by Peter Quennell
Italy and the US get along exceptionally well on the political, economic, military and cultural fronts.
They get along on the justice front too, if neither side tries to pull the rug out from under the other. This case and this case are festering instances of where the Italians did not think the Americans played quite fair.
Typically therefore the US State Department likes to take any mutual justice matter below the radar. Way, way below the radar.
Despite what Knox conspiracists like Steve Moore and Candace Dempsey and “Bruce Fisher” may think, their rabid campaign is only making any effective intervention by the State Department that much more unlikely.
Knox family advisor Ted Simon and US Senator for Washington State Maria Cantwell seem to have been told that or figured it out. The Knox-Mellas family seems to have cooled it on the surface in recent month, even if Chris Mellas appears to sustain support for his hardline internet faction just below that surface.
Michael McCarty is a New York photographer who publishes fine art prints, and Manuela Antonelli was a producer and reporter for Italian TV. They were married in New York’s Central Park in 1992, eight year later their son Liam was born, and some time after that they divorced.
In 2007 in the midst of a nasty custody battle in New York between Manuela and Michael over Liam, Manuela suddenly took off with Liam, then aged six, and headed back to her home country of Italy. Once the custody of Liam was awarded by a New York judge to the father, a governmental legal campaign began to try to get Liam and his mother back.
From the Examiner.
Antonelli had made numerous allegations of abuse against McCarty but investigations by the NYPD, New York District Attorney’s Office, Children’s Services, and numerous court-appointed mental health professionals all found the accusations to be “unfounded,” “baseless,” and “false.”
Antonelli was diagnosed with severe personality disorders and was determined to be an unfit parent. Sole legal and physical custody was awarded to McCarty, an order was issued that Liam not be taken out of the United States, and a judicial finding of parental alienation was made against the mother….
In Italy, Manuela Antonelli was also diagnosed with psychiatric problems, and Liam was placed in an orphanage, and later in the custody of an Italian uncle in Rome, where he is now. At one point early on, Manuela briefly snatched Liam back.
Italy usually takes the position of the mother getting automatic custody, or at minimum having easy access to her children. If Liam is returned to New York, his mother Manuela would get neither, so the Italian judicial approach has been very cautious on this one. More-so because she is clearly unwell.
In 2009 the American campaign to get him back suddenly became very public and quite nasty, with several US TV networks jumping on the bandwagon and contributing to an emotional campaign. Video examples of this can be seen here and here and here.
Rather suddenly, that public campaign went quiet again, and the State Department very gently got back into the act of trying to get Liam back to New York and Manuela extradited back to the US to face charges.
The latest news is that both the Italian judicial position and the mood of the Italian public have moved over to conceding that Liam really should be sent back to New York to his father. The question of the extradition of the mother remains open.
The case remains much in the Italian news and many online comments remark scathingly how very unhelpful in all this the rabid Knox campaign has been.
Thanks for this information, Peter. I did not know about this case. I don’t know the full facts, of course, but I very much doubt any good would be served by extraditing the mother and putting her on trial.
Hi Janus. It would indeed seem helpful if the FBI and Federal Justice Department could waive the extradition request for her and allow her to visit her son if he does get returned to the US.
Our frequent Italian poster NCountryside pointed out all the Italian coverage of Liam’s case in an email. NBC Dateline just did a one hour report, factual, but only from Michael’s point of view.
It was a little shocking to see on some of the websites that dwelled on the case in the heat of the campaign in 2009 some comments demonizing Manuela BECAUSE she is mentally ill.
According to Wikipedia there are 26 states (as of Jan 2011) which have signed the Hague Convention on recognizing foreign judgements (that is, presumably, judgements by the other signatories) pertaining to issues of parental responsibility and child protection. Italy, the UK and the USA, and a mumber of others, have signed but have yet to ratify this.
I mention this because of the clip in this post where, in the presence of a lawyer, it was said that Italy was in breach of the convention.
Thanks James. I also came across claims from these pervasive amateurs on the net that Italy was contravening the Hague convention on family cases. What you say explains why no extradition request has been made - the laws of Italy and the US would not presently support one.
Moms in Italy are something of a paragon and although Justice and the FBI probably had no choice but to find against Manuela, what seems to many Italians a rather hard line against a mentally troubled mom has not gone over all that well.
If the son is indeed brought back to New York and she is never able to see him again that might not bode well for her recovery. The husband seems uncaring of her at this point though he’s been put through hell. Tricky case. Sympathy to all.
All signatories to the Hague Convention will have equivalent law. Otherwise the convention wouldn’t work. The prime principle in the case of children has to be the best interests of the child.
However sometimes it is very difficult to be sure what is in the child’s best interest. A short term view in this case would I think be that the child is better off with his own father. The child might also be better off with his father in the medium to long term but if separation from his mother would only lead to her further mental deterioration that would not be in the child’s best interest in the medium to long term either.
There are always cases like this and it is one thing for governments to sign up to this sort of convention, it is another thing altogether to sell it to mistrustful politicians in the legislative body and to the media.
One has only to think of vice versa situations to see how tricky this can become.
In addition the effect of the convention might be to trigger a rush to court - to be the first one in with a ruling as it were. That would be an undesirable consequence.
Peter, thanks for the link to the double take on Ted Simon. It’s amazing how people will be such fools just to get on TV.
So the USA would like to extradite the mother to face charges and Italy is holding firm to its own practices despite the fact that there are some international laws to consider as well.
It is my belief that once the appeals are over and AK remains in prison in Italy the parents’ next step (unless they finally simply accept that what ‘is’ just ‘is’) will be to seek a prisoner transfer arrangement which is possible. When all is said and done is it believable that the mother and step father will continue to lead separate lives and that Madison Paxton will continue to put her own life on hold and take up residency in Italy indefinitely? Particularly once the hue and cry has dies down and everyone including the media has turned their attention to more interesting and pressing concerns.
I looked this all up recently and it seems that there is such a bilateral agreement between Italy and the USA but that a prisoner cannot be transferred unless these conditions are met:
1. Any fines imposed by the courts upon the prisoner must be paid in full first.
• Well, it will take AK and co a long time to pay the Kerchers, Patrick Lumumba, the landlady (?) - anyone else? - the fines imposed upon her by the court in Perugia.
2. The home country (in this case the USA) has to agree to keep to the terms of the sentence imposed and may not release the prisoner earlier.
• Should she be sent to a prison in the USA on a transfer agreement she could cut off access to any chances of early release on parole that she may have been able to secure in Italy.
Having said that, we now have Judge Heavey apparently going on a political campaign trail and using the Amanda Knox ‘plight’ as one of his campaign issues. Once in the USA there is a possibility that pressure would be brought by such as he (and others whose names are familiar to followers of this case) to bear upon the authorities and, if the arguments are sufficiently persuasive, the authorities just might give way to it.
After all, think of the case of Silvia Baraldini sentenced in 1982 to 43 years’ imprisonment for activities in the Black Power and Puerto Rican independence movements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvia_Baraldini ).
The USA eventually allowed her to return home on a transfer agreement to serve the rest of her sentence in Italy until 2008 however she was released on house arrest in 2001 and subsequently fully released in 2006 – two years’ short of the agreed release date - on the basis of a ‘general pardon law’ approved by the Italian Parliament.
Wikipedia says (sorry ), ‘That happened despite the agreement with the Government of the United States which stated that she had to remain in prison until 2008.’
Although the two cases are entirely different in essence this does raise a question mark concerning AK’s status should she be transferred and, of course without debating the true nature of ‘justice’, over the ultimate justice for Meredith Kercher and her family.
Impressive research & specifics.
Judge Heavey spoke to a Rotary Club recently claiming three years’ attention to the case & declaring Amanda to be “100% innocent.” Curt Knox was present.
I replied to this under the name gusonweb with simple declarations (no expertise implied): SeattlePI.
Shades of Curt Knox’s publicity campaign which had earlier snared a state senator.
Any understanding here about forthcoming campaign contributions? We’ll surely never know.
What we do know is that from the beginning Curt Knox has set about to BUY PUBLIC OPINION.
That his public relations firm has been remarkably successful (in America) cannot touch the fact that
publicity of this sort has nothing to do with legal procedure.
A bought & paid for favorable story is also a cover story, but why? Lest the true story emerge?
And given Curt Knox’s zeal in the matter (father love?) one very reasonably asks: Is there something MORE to the Amanda story? Something worth hiding?
If you do the math you find that Baraldini served 98% of her sentence. If Amanda Knox served 98% of her sentence that would be 25.8 years, which is still substantial. The fear, of course, is that her family and supporters would try to exert political influence and have her released as soon as possible. Someone earlier raised the fear of seeing Amanda Knox on Ellen’s or Oprah’s show going on about her “poor me” experience. Let’s hope the Italian authorities are firm in demanding she serve her time.