Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Detroit mom cleared of charges that stemmed from standoff at home

11:14 PM, Aug. 29, 2011

In a case that sparked debate about parental rights versus state involvement in the medical care of children, a Detroit woman won a major victory Monday when all the charges against her were dropped.

Maryanne Godboldo, 57, was accused of firing a gun at Detroit police officers who were assisting a state Child Protective Services worker when they came to her Blaine Street home on March 24 to get her daughter.

The charges against Godboldo were dismissed at her preliminary examination in 36th District Court in Detroit. Judge Ronald Giles agreed with her lawyers that the court order to remove Godboldo's 13-year-old daughter was not valid.

"I am very, very happy and blessed that Judge Giles did the right thing," Godboldo said at a news conference at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.

Giles also agreed that there was no evidence supporting the charge that Godboldo fired a gun at police during the standoff.

When asked about Giles' ruling, Detroit Police Sgt. Eren Stephens said: "Ms. Godboldo was afforded her due process under the law. We abide by and respect the decision."

Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, said the prosecutor will appeal the dismissal of charges.

Godboldo legal team confident that case will survive an appeal

Maryanne Godboldo's legal team is confident that a Wayne County District Court judge's dismissal of all charges against her on Monday will survive an appeal.

"The standard is abuse of discretion," said Byron Pitts, one of Godboldo's lawyers. "The court today did not abuse his discretion."

Godboldo, 57, of Detroit was charged with discharge of a weapon, three counts of felonious assault, resisting and obstructing an officer and felony firearm.

She was accused of firing a gun at police who had accompanied a state Child Protective Services employee to Godboldo's home on Blaine on March 24.

The employee had a Juvenile Court order to take Godboldo's 13-year-old daughter after Godboldo had been accused of neglecting her by discontinuing a psychotropic drug. Godboldo has maintained she has the right to decide her daughter's medical treatment.

Police said Godboldo barricaded herself in her home with her daughter and shot at them.

After hearing testimony at Godboldo's preliminary examination in 36th District Court on Monday in Detroit, Judge Ronald Giles ruled that the court order was not valid and that there was insufficient evidence that Godboldo fired at police officers.

Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor's Office, said the dismissed charges will be appealed. Miller said that Wayne County Circuit Judge Lynne Pierce earlier determined at a Juvenile Court hearing that the order to remove the child was valid.

The appeal will be heard in Wayne County Circuit Court.

At a news conference Monday at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Pitts and Godboldo's other attorney, Allison Folmar, explained why they prevailed.

Folmar said Godboldo "never shot at an officer -- period. It never happened."

They said the court order was not valid because a court clerk stamped the judge's name to the order without consulting the judge.

"A judge never looked at this, never saw it," Pitts said. "It has to be an elected authority. This lady took the judge's stamp, stamped the judge's name and off she goes."

He called it "a huge constitutional error."

As a result of this case, Pitts said, there has been a policy change. Court employees are no longer allowed to stamp judges' names on court orders.

Godboldo's supporters say Giles' ruling was justice.

Sandra Hines, a member of the Godboldo Action Committee, said: "This case is rooted on the grounds of parental rights. It's the right of every parent to be the custodial caregiver over their child."

Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said, "It's a victory for parental rights."

He also said that "Citizens have the right not to adhere to questionable reasons for entering their home. A person does not have to allow an unreasonable search and seizure to their home."

Neema Yacen of Detroit and a member of the Godboldo Action Committee, said it was a case of state overreach. "This is a mother who said her child had a problem, took her to the people who she thought could help her, and they crucified her."

Godboldo, whose daughter is now in the custody of her sister Penny Godboldo, is working to get her child back.

Judge Pierce has said she needs to evaluate the girl's current treatment and is seeking a report from her doctor.


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