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Bail tripled to $150k for former Alex Bay woman in international custody dispute

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Bail was tripled Tuesday for a woman charged earlier this month with custodial interference for allegedly taking her son to the Ukraine in violation of a custody order.

State Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky, acting as Jefferson County Court judge, raised bail for Svetlana A. Sorokina, 38, from the $50,000 set in Alexandria Town Court to $150,000 after determining that Ms. Sorokina represented “a serious flight risk.”

Ms. Sorokina, Simfereol, Ukraine, was taken into custody by U.S. Customs officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, after she arrived alone on a flight April 8. It is alleged that she took her 10-year-old son, Nicholai, to her homeland despite a custodial agreement stating the boy’s father, John E. Moody, Watertown, would have custody of the youth for alternating two-week periods.

In 2010, Mr. Moody was unable to reach his son by phone during a visitation to Ms. Sorokina’s Alexandria Bay home. He claims that Ms. Sorokina, his ex-wife, then responded to an e-mail from him, stating she had taken Nicholai to the Ukraine, in violation of the custody order. A warrant was issued for her arrest in July 2010, resulting in her being taken into custody upon her return to the United States, where she is being held at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building.

At a court appearance Tuesday, Ms. Sorokina, who was being represented by the county public defender’s office, made a motion to have new counsel assigned. She claimed that her lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Sheila M. Crowley, waived her right to a preliminary hearing on the custodial interference charge without consulting her and that she was not devoting enough time to her case. Ms. Crowley disagreed with Ms. Sorokina’s opinion, telling Judge McClusky that she has spent “an exorbitant” amount of time on her case despite being assigned just a week ago.

Judge McClusky told Ms. Sorokina that Ms. Crowley did nothing improper by electing to waive the preliminary hearing, but nonetheless granted her motion to have a new attorney assigned.

“I just believe that, at this stage in the proceedings, if you have an attorney you’re comfortable with, it will go a lot smoother for you,” Judge McClusky said.

The judge also preserved Ms. Sorokina’s right to request a preliminary hearing once the new attorney is assigned.

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