Case Update: Civil Suit for Fraud, Slander, etc., after Criminal Conviction for aiding and abetting a criminal kidnapping
In the continuing saga of Chris Brann and the Guimaraes Family, the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas accelerated Chris' interlocutory appeal, and ultimately dismissed the Guimaraes' civil suit against him. This family has been through a significant volume of litigation, including: family court cases in Texas and Brazil, a Hague Abduction return proceeding in Brazil, and a criminal suit in Texas. This particular appeal relates to yet another lawsuit - a civil case brought by Marcelle Guimaraes' parents against her ex-Husband, Chris Brann.
As background, Carlos and Jemima Guimaraes' daughter, Marcelle, was married to Chris Brann and they had a son Nathaniel. In 2012, Marcelle filed for divorce from Chris in Texas. In 2013, Marcelle obtained a Texas trial court's permission to take Nathaniel to a family wedding in Brazil. Once in Brazil, Marcelle enrolled Nathaniel in her family-run school, initiated a Brazilian custody case, and secured custody of Nathaniel in that case. Her parents allegedly helped her, telling Chris that Marcelle was sick and could not return to the U.S., but that she would return as soon as she recovered. They apparently also purchased return plane tickets for Marcelle and Nathaniel as a coverup. Marcelle's parents then returned to the United States themselves, where they were indicted, tried, and convicted in federal court of aiding and abetting their daughter's international parental kidnapping. They did not appeal their conviction (receiving only a few months' sentence and a financial fine), but instead brought this civil suit against Chris, claiming he committed fraud on the court, false imprisonment, slander per se, and 2 violations of the Texas Penal Code. Chris filed a Motion to Dismiss their civil suit using the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). The trial court refused to dismiss the suit, but, in this appeal, the Court of Appeals disagreed, remanding the case for its prompt dismissal, and awarding Chris sanctions and fees against the Guimaraeses.
The civil suit itself emanated from Chris' testimony in several court proceedings, including his divorce and the criminal case, as well as his testimony before Congress and his statements to the media after his former in-laws were criminally convicted. His statements included a denial of abuse allegations against him, allegations that Marcelle was abusive, and claims his child was abducted with the help of his former in-laws. "The TCPA provides an expedited procedure for the early dismissal of groundless legal actions that impinge on certain statutorily defined rights, namely, the right of free speech, the right to petition, and the right of association." Chris' statements ultimately fell within his rights, and because the Guimaraes' civil suit related to Chris' protected rights, their suit needed to be dismissed. Chris met his legal burden, but when that burden shifted, his former in-laws could not meet theirs.