A Ukrainian woman who violated a custody order by taking her son to her native land pleaded guilty Friday in Jefferson County Court to the noncriminal violation of disorderly conduct.
Svetlana A. Sorokina initially faced a felony charge in April for defying a custody order issued by Supreme Court Judge Hugh A. Gilbert by taking her son, Nicholai, now 10, to live in Simfereol, Ukraine, in July 2010 for a protracted period. The custodial agreement called for the boys father, John E. Moody, Watertown, to have custody of the youth for alternating two-week periods. A grand jury investigating the matter in June returned only misdemeanor counts of custodial interference and criminal contempt.
Ms. Sorokina told Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky on Friday that she was entering a guilty plea reluctantly, in order to obtain her release from the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building in anticipation of returning to Ukraine.
I want to be reunited with my child as soon as possible, she said.
Judge McClusky said that while he thought the disposition of the case was in the best interest of the child, he chided Ms. Sorokina for taking her son from the country. The boy has been staying with her family.
For the record, I dont think that youve done enough to make sure that the child has a relationship with his father, the judge said.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Kristyna S. Mills said the decision to reduce the charges to disorderly conduct was made to ensure that the child had contact with at least one parent and was made with Mr. Moodys consent.
This entire offer was fashioned with the child in mind, she said.
Mr. Moody said he agreed with the decision in large part because his ex-wife has shown a propensity for litigation and appeared willing to remain in jail for as long as it took to win.
I want my son back, but I dont think its in his best interest to have her sitting here in jail, he said. This battle has been going on since my son was 4 months old. What good is that doing for my son?
Mr. Moody, who said he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the custody dispute, said that with Ms. Sorokina returning to Ukraine, he believes he has zero chance of seeing his son again any time soon, at least until the 10-year-old is old enough to decide for himself that he wants a relationship with his father.
If Ms. Sorokina had been convicted of a more serious offense, she likely would have faced immigration proceedings that could have limited her ability to return home in the immediate future. Mrs. Mills said she believes immigration problems will be mitigated, if not resolved, by the noncriminal conviction.
Following her plea, Ms. Sorokina was sentenced by Judge McClusky to a time served. Ms. Sorokina spent about five months in the Public Safety Building, which Mrs. Mills said was a significant period of incarceration for someone with no prior criminal record.
Shes served a decent amount of time, and there have been consequences for her actions, Mrs. Mills said.
Ms. Sorokinas attorney, George F. Hildebrandt, Syracuse, said she intends to return to her country as soon as possible and plans to cooperate with Mr. Moody on future custody issues.
Ms. Sorokina has never intended to deprive her son of his fathers company, Mr. Hildebrandt said.
Mr. Moody said he does not believe that to be the case, as he has offered to pay for Ms. Sorokina and Nicholai to return to the United States for visitations.
He added: If she wanted to bring him back, why isnt he here?