Case Update: International Criminal Kidnapping, Extortion, Restitution

A recent 10th Circuit Case, United States v. Mobley, addressed an appeal of a crime that related back to the mother's abduction of her children to Russia.

Mobley (Father) and Osipova (Mother) had a daughter.  Shortly after Mobley filed for divorce in Kansas, Osipova abducted their daughter to Russia.  At the time of the abduction (April 2, 2014), Osipova was seven months pregnant with the couple's second child.  She gave birth 2 months after her arrival in Russia.  Two weeks after the abduction, the Father secured a sole custody order from Kansas related to the eldest child.  Shortly after the youngest child's birth in Russia, the father secured a divorce and sole custody order from Kansas for that child. (Note - this is a criminal case, so I am not clear how the Kansas court had jurisdiction under the UCCJEA over the youngest child to issue an initial child-custody determination).  In Spring 2015, Osipova secured a divorce, and custody and child support order from the Russian courts.   Mobley continued to seek access to and return of their two daughters, and Osipova consistently wrote to Mobley that he could have access to the children once he paid child support pursuant to the Russian order. Osipova ultimately cut off all access between the children and father, since he refused to pay.

In September 2017, Osipova left both daughters in Russia and traveled to Kansas, to petition the Kansas court for sole legal custody of both children.  The FBI arrested her on federal criminal kidnapping of the oldest daughter.  The grand jury indicted her on one count of criminal kidnapping.  Months later, the government added several counts of extortionate interstate communications (in short hand, her emails from Russia to the United States that told the father he would not have access to the children unless he paid money).  At trial, Osipova conceded the kidnapping, but adamantly denied any extortionate communications. She was convicted on the 1 kidnapping charge and on 2 extortion charges.  

2 months before Osipova's sentencing, her mother reached out to the court asking if it had received a certain communication from Osipova.  The court responded to the mother, essentially saying that it could not consider anything unless formally submitted by Osipova's lawyer, and that the sentencing would go "very differently ... depending on whether the children are back in the U.S. or not."  Osipova sought to recuse the judge for ex parte communication, but that motion was denied. 

The court ordered Osipova to pay $18,100 in restitution to Mobley for his attempts to secure the children's returns.  The court ultimately sentenced Osipova to 3 years for kidnapping and 7 years on the extortionate communication charges, to run concurrently.  

Osipova appealed on numerous points: (1) the court's failure to dismiss the indictment, (2) the court sustaining the extortionate-communication claims, (3) the court not recusing itself over the email sent to her mother, and (4) the restitution.

Ultimately, the 10th Circuit found in Osipova's favor on points 2 and 4.  The extortionate communication statute was not intended to include parental kidnapping.  And, any restitution needed to relate to participation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at the proceedings.  The money expended by Mobley was to secure the return of his daughters from Russia to the United States, something that was unnecessary to Osipova's prosecution.