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Bail cut for Ukrainian woman in custody dispute with Watertown man

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Bail was slashed Tuesday in Jefferson County Court for a Ukrainian woman alleged to have taken her son to her native country in violation of a custody order.

Svetlana A. Sorokina’s attorney, however, said she is unlikely to be able to raise the $25,000 bail now imposed by state Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky. Her bail was decreased from $150,000 after a grand jury returned two misdemeanor counts of custodial interference and criminal contempt last week.

“I’m disappointed that the judge did not release her,” attorney George F. Hildebrandt, Syracuse, said outside the courtroom.

It is alleged that on July 3, 2010, Ms. Sorokina defied a custody order issued by Supreme Court Judge Hugh A. Gilbert by taking her son, Nicholai, to live in Simfereol, Ukraine, for a protracted period. The custodial agreement called for the boy’s father, John E. Moody, Watertown, to have custody of the youth for alternating two-week periods.

In 2010, Mr. Moody was unable to reach his son by phone during a visit to Ms. Sorokina’s Alexandria Bay home. He claims that Ms. Sorokina, his ex-wife, then responded to an email from him, saying she had taken Nicholai to Ukraine in violation of the custody order.

She 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.

Mr. Hildebrandt said it was never Ms. Sorokina’s intention to take the child permanently. He said Ms. Sorokina, who has permanent resident status, left the U.S. hastily with her son after learning of her stepfather’s death. A passport for her son, a U.S. citizen, is held in Family Court custody, making him unable to return to the country.

“She is really a victim of circumstances, with him being stuck there,” Mr. Hildebrandt said.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Aaron D. Carr argued for an “appropriate” bail, telling Judge McClusky that Ms. Sorokina already had left the country unlawfully once with her son “and that child has not been returned.”

“Even though the charges are misdemeanor charges, I do think she’s a flight risk,” Mr. Carr said outside the courtroom.

In addition to bail, Judge McClusky told Ms. Sorokina that as a condition of her release, her travel would be confined to Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties, with her movement monitored by a global positioning system.

Ms. Sorokina said she has no means of supporting herself within that geographic area, with New York City being the sole location where she is aware she could earn a living. She said she also had contacted police about bringing unspecified charges against Mr. Moody, but was told the matter would have to be resolved in court.

“If that’s relevant at the time of trial, those issues can be raised. It’s not appropriate today,” Judge McClusky said.

Mr. Hildebrandt said he plans to challenge the timeliness of the charges brought against Ms. Sorokina.

He said a lower court judge issued a warrant for her arrest in 2010 and he contends that prosecutors knew where she was and could have made more of an effort to have her arrested before April 8.

He said he was disappointed in the bail amount because the misdemeanor charges carry a maximum sentence of a year in jail, and by the time her case is resolved, she may have served that amount even if she is never convicted.

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