- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A woman arrested in Australia on charges of abducting her infant daughter from South Carolina 20 years ago wants to be released on bond. But a federal prosecutor opposes the idea saying that, just as two decades ago, Dorothy Lee Barnett may flee.

The 54-year-old Barnett, formerly of the Isle of Palms, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of parental kidnapping and two counts of falsifying U.S. passport applications. On Monday, she stands before U.S. Magistrate Bristow Marchant seeking bond.

Authorities say Barnett did not have custody of her daughter, Savanna Catherine Todd, when she took her from South Carolina in 1994 when the child was almost a year old. They say she was found in Australia last year living under several aliases and fought extradition but was returned to the United States in September.

Her attorney, Russell Mace III, argues in court documents his client is neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk and that her son and daughter will appear on her behalf. He said Barnett has been offered a job, needs medical attention she cannot get in jail and family members are willing to put up property worth $1.4 million to secure bond.

A motion opposing bond by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams provides a glimpse at what has happened in the last 20 years.

Barnett and her husband, Harris Todd, divorced in 1994 and Todd was granted custody of their daughter.

Prosecutors say Barnett used a false name to get a driver’s license in Texas and used that license to obtain a passport. About a week after she got the license she failed to return the child from a supervised visit in South Carolina. Barnett would marry and have a son by a man, who is now dead, in South Africa and later filed an application for an amended passport under her new name, the motion said.

When arrested, authorities found a New Zealand passport for Barnett, South African passports for her daughter and son, a fake birth certificate for Barnett and her daughter, U.S. passports and documents indicating Barnett and her children were citizens of New Zealand, the motion said.

Williams wrote Barnett “has spent the last twenty years fleeing a family court order, obtaining multiple false identification documents and lying to avoid being brought to court.”

He added that property securing bond and a job won’t assure Barnett will appear in court, and “Barnett has deprived several individuals of their family which is certainly far more valuable than a house or property.”

In a Nov. 13 order, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel refused to dismiss the case.

The defense said in a motion the statute of limitations had expired on the kidnapping charge and the charge of falsifying passport applications does not apply outside the country.

The judge noted there is no statute of limitations on people fleeing justice and while the amended passport application was submitted from outside the country, it was filed with a passport office in the United States.


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