Judge keeps parental kidnapper in jail despite tribal court ruling


March 13, 2016

Source: grandforksherald.com

FARGO — A Fargo woman who whisked her two children away in the middle of the night to a South Dakota Indian Reservation 1 1/2 years ago to avoid custody orders will remain in the Cass County Jail, a judge ruled Friday.

Tricia Taylor, 33, was hoping in the court hearing to be released, saying there was nothing she could do to get the children back to their fathers because a Cheyenne Sioux Indian Reservation  court in far northwest South Dakota had granted temporary custody to her brother and half-sister who live there.

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It’s a classic example of how state courts and tribal courts can face off in both civil and criminal matters — a longstanding dispute that never seems to go away.

Judicial Referee Susan Solheim, however, ruled that she didn’t buy the argument that Taylor can’t return the children to their fathers, to whom she had granted full custody more than a year ago.

She continued to hold her in contempt for not having the children back home.

Taylor’s troubles run much deeper than that as she also has been convicted of parental kidnapping and spent several months in state prison, but was released on parole last November over the strong objections of Aarin Nygaard and Terrance Stanley — the fathers of the two girls who were also in court Friday.

The lawyer for the two fathers, Tracy Lyson of Fargo, told Solheim that she believes Taylor is “doing everything in her power not to comply” with the judge’s orders to return the children to Nygaard and Stanley, who haven’t seen their daughters since they were taken to the reservations in August 2014.

Lyson asked that recordings of calls from the jail between Taylor and others be allowed into evidence to show she continues to orchestrate the withholding of the children.

“Her plan is that if you let her out she plans to go back to the reservation, low lay for a few months and then take the children with her and the fathers will never see them again,” Lyson told the judge in discussing what they have heard on jail call recordings.

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Lyson also asked that Taylor be called to the witness stand to be questioned about her intentions, but she took the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer any questions.

Solheim then quickly ruled that Taylor was still in contempt of her order and should stay in jail.

Taylor’s lawyer, Ross Brandborg, said after the hearing that he had “no comment.”

When asked if Taylor could be interviewed, he said, “I won’t let you talk to her.”

“I think she’s getting awfully sick of sitting in jail,” said Nygaard family spokesman Michael Nygaard, an uncle, after the hearing.

Also after the hearing, Lyson said they have appealed the tribal court custody ruling to an independent appeals court on the reservation. Briefs in that case are due Tuesday.

The chief justice of that court is University of South Dakota law professor and author Frank Pommersheim.

Lyson said she has read his rulings in other cases and believes “he will do the right thing” and overturn the lower court’s custody ruling.

“I think we’ll see a speedy decision,” Lyson said about the appeal after briefs are filed.

In the meantime, the fathers continue to miss holidays and birthdays with their daughters.

Aarin Nygaard said his daughter, Cheyienna,  turned 3 years old in January, while Stanley’s daughter, Tatelyn, turned 8 in December.

Taylor’s family has taken to social media to try to paint a different picture as the case lingers on, saying that she left to “break a cycle of abuse” of her and her oldest daughter.

In one post, they argued that Aarin Nygaard had sexually abused the oldest girl, although Cass County prosecutors have looked at the allegation and refused to press charges.

As the days go on, at least Friday’s hearing was a bit of a relief for the fathers and their families.

For Taylor, who was in handcuffs in the courtroom, she was taken out the side door and back to jail — for how long no one knows.

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Fargo parental kidnapper given parole, but children still on SD reservation


October 18, 2015

Source: Grand forks Herald

A Fargo mother who was convicted of parental kidnapping and whose daughters are still on a South Dakota Indian reservation with her half-sister has been granted early parole, much to the chagrin of the fathers.

Tricia Taylor SD

The 3-0 decision by the North Dakota Board of Parole will allow Tricia Taylor, 33, to be released Nov. 5 from the state women’s prison after serving about six months of a two-year prison term. Parole board chairman Duane Houdek, however, said Taylor also served about five months in the Cass County Jail before her conviction last April when she was sent to the New England, N.D., prison.

President Barack Obama greets the members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, in Cannon Ball, N.D., Friday, June 13, 2014, during a Cannon Ball flag day celebration, at the Cannon Ball powwow grounds. It’s the president’s first trip to Indian Country as president and only the third such visit by a sitting president in almost 80 years. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

He also defended the decision by saying she was a non-violent offender and didn’t have a criminal record.

However, the two girls, ages 2 and 7, still aren’t back with their fathers who have been granted full custody by a North Dakota state court.

Houdek said it was the board’s understanding that the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation where the girls were taken has assumed jurisdiction and taken custody of the girls.

Thus, it was his understanding that “even if she wanted to, she couldn’t return them.”

However, the family spokesman for the fathers — Michael Nygaard of Fargo — disagrees.

“All Tricia has to do is make a call to her half sister and this done,” he said about returning the children. “Tricia is trying to get the tribe to take custody of the girls, but we have received notice … that they will not do this but want the tribal court to make a decision on custody, which has not been determined yet in the tribal court. Tricia wanted the board to think that she is helpless in this matter while that is not the case.”

Thus, the two fathers   — Aarin Nygaard and Terrance Stanley, both of Fargo — and their families are somewhat in disbelief she was granted parole.

Michael Nygaard, who is Aarin’s uncle, said, “We just can’t believe it.”

One of the fathers’ attorneys, RoseAnn Wendell of Pierre, S.D., said, “I think it’s a slap in the face.”

It’s now been more than a year since Taylor stole the girls away on Labor Day weekend in 2014 and since then, the fathers have been fighting through the tribal court system on the northwest South Dakota reservation for the girls to be returned to them. They’ve spent more than $40,000 on legal fees forcing them to set up a gofundme page and a donation account at Gate City Bank.

FILE - This Sept. 9, 2012 file photo shows the entrance to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Sioux tribe. Five more American Indian tribes in South Dakota are seeking federal money to help operate their own foster care programs. The Rosebud Sioux in 2013 became one of the first tribes in the nation to receive a $300,000 planning grant. The Oglala and Crow Creek Sioux, Standing Rock, Cheyenne River,  and Yankton tribes this week also submitted applications for grants.  (AP Photo/Kristi Eaton, File)

They haven’t seen the girls either, although tribal judge Brenda Claymore did say earlier last month at one of numerous hearings on the case that they could visit the girls who have been staying with the half sister — Jessica Ducheneaux — in Timber Lake on the reservation. However, neither father has attended the hearings this year because their attorneys do not want them to succumb to the  jurisdiction of the tribe.

Even if they could arrange it, Michael Nygaard said they didn’t want to have a visitation on the reservation. “After discussing it, we thought it would just be too disruptive.”

So the situation has turned into an example of how people can get caught up in the legal limbo between state and tribal courts.

On one hand, the state courts wants tribal courts to respect their laws while the tribal courts want state courts to do the same.

Wendell,  who describes herself as a  “blonde white girl” who has been arguing cases on South Dakota reservations for years, said when she first started her chances of winning any cases in tribal courts were about as good as — well — being the “Easter bunny.”

She said she has developed a “good relationship” with the Cheyenne River tribal officials  and is “cautiously optimistic” that the girls might be returned to their fathers at the next hearing in tribal court in Eagle Butte on Oct. 29.

“I think she (the judge) knows that legally, procedurally and substantially that the law favors returning the kids to their dads,” Wendell said.

However, the judge could face a political backlash on the reservation if she does give up the two girls from the reservation and may even face the  loss of her job as the judge serves at the pleasure of the tribal chairman — as is the case on most reservations.

Moreover, Wendell said this custody case has been played out a lot in social media and has drawn a lot of attention.

“However, I think there’s been a lot of misinformation,” she said.

There have been allegations from Taylor that she has suffered physical and mental abuse from Aarin Nygaard  and his family and that he sexually abused the older daughter.

In a petition that was sent to the parole board, another Taylor extended family member, Jennifer Ducheneaux, wrote that  “for years she (Taylor) has been dealt verbal abuse, physical abuse and harassment from the Nygaard family.”

The allegations infuriate the fathers and their families.

Cass County assistant state’s attorney Tristan Van de Streek backs up the fathers, saying there was an intensive investigation by police and other agencies into the abuse allegations but the evidence was insufficient.

“No way could we win the case with the evidence we had,” said Van de Streek, who also prosecuted the parental kidnapping case against Taylor. He did say a confrontation between Nygaard and Taylor at one point in their relationship, however, did land Nygaard with a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, although it was later dismissed.

Another judge — magistrate judge Susan Solheim of Fargo — also has reviewed the relationships and the case and granted the fathers full custody, plus issued two contempt of court charges against Taylor.

The custody order, however, remains the focus of the dispute with the tribal court.

Wendell said these type of battles between state and tribal courts happen more than a person might think.

“Do people seek refuge on the reservation? Yes,” Wendell said.

She has seen other custody fights linger on reservations for years or even in some instances don’t even make it to court — another example of how jurisdictional issues can drag on between state and tribal courts.

“Sometimes it’s ‘good luck’ trying to get anything done,” Wendell said.

Because of that, some people simply give up as it gets “too hard, too stressful and too emotional,” she said.

Wendell said this case is somewhat different, however, not only because there has been the parental kidnapping conviction but because the fathers and their families are sticking it out and not giving up.

“I give them a lot of credit for keeping up the fight,” she said.

Meanwhile, Michael Nygaard said he worries that when Taylor is released from prison, she’ll go to the reservation and then they’ll never see the girls again.

However, orders provided by the parole board state that she can’t leave North Dakota without obtaining advance permission from a parole officer and she must also have a travel permit.  The order also states that she must waive extradition from “any jurisdiction” where she would be found and not contest any effort to return her to the state.

Michael Nygaard said if the fathers aren’t awarded custody at the end of this month, they’re done in the tribal court and will try to move into federal court with the case.

Neither Judge Claymore or Jessica Ducheneaux returned phone calls on the case or couldn’t be contacted.

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Child Abduction – Fargo women sent to prison for parental kidnapping


April 12, 2015

Source: bismarcktribune

FARGO — The standoff continues.

On one side is a Fargo mother who refused a drug test, then fled with her two daughters to a South Dakota Indian reservation out of fear of losing custody of the girls. On the other side are the two Fargo fathers who desperately want their children back, but have been blocked by a tribal judge.

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In what is viewed as a possible step closer to a solution in the complicated parental kidnapping case, North Dakota District Court Judge John Irby on Monday sentenced 32-year-old Tricia Taylor to two years in the women’s state prison.

So far, though, the 2-year-old and 7-year-old daughters remain on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in north-central South Dakota on that competing judicial order issued in January that the children should stay with Taylor’s sister, Jessica Ducheneaux of Timber Lake, a small town of about 400 on the 10,500-person reservation.

That goes against a similar order in family court in Fargo last September when the two fathers, Aarin Nygaard, 24, and Terrance Stanley, 32, were awarded full custody of the two girls.

After the sentencing earlier this week, both fathers said they would agree to letting Taylor go free if only they would get back the children.

“The biggest thing is to have the kids back,” Stanley told assistant Cass County state’s attorney Tristan Van de Streek, who prosecuted the case, in a meeting after the sentencing with about 10 family members.

“I just want to get my kid back,” he said. “I don’t seek vengeance.”

“You have no idea how I feel. I don’t think you have any idea how stressful this has been as a father,” Stanley said. “I wake up in the morning thinking of my child and when I go to bed I don’t know if she is OK.

“It’s like living in death, without the killing,” he said.

Nygaard, who along with Stanley wrote a victim impact statement to the judge, agreed. “I would just be happy with time served for her if she would just bring the kid back to me.”

“I think we are at least a step closer to get them back,” Nygaard said.

Well, maybe.

Van de Streek said Taylor kind of “called our bluff” by pleading guilty to the charge and going off to prison without bringing the girls home.

She did talk in court before Irby pronounced the sentence about her reasoning, saying she thought it was in the best interest of the children. She said in her relationships with the two fathers she faced “mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse,” adding that her “confidence was crushed.”

She also took responsibility for her actions.

“I humbly ask for forgiveness,” she told the judge. “I’m truly sorry with all my heart. But I thought I was protecting my children, and myself.”

The fathers, and Van de Streek, don’t buy it.

Van de Streek said any reports of abuse were aired in family court and the judge there decided to give the fathers full custody. If the children are returned, Taylor would have only supervised visitation, the ruling states.

Cheyenne River Reservation

The U.S. Marshal’s issued a warrant and the FBI went to the reservation in November to arrest Taylor and bring her back to Fargo. The fathers wish the FBI would have taken the children, too, but Taylor’s family there wouldn’t let them.

Complicating the matter in the months since is Tribal Judge Brenda Claymore’s order this winter that the children should stay with Taylor’s sister. Van de Streek said he doesn’t know what to do next with those “competing orders” in the case, although he believes the children belong back with their fathers.

Tribal officials refused to talk about the case, with juvenile court prosecutor Carla Veaux saying that “workers for the tribe don’t have the authority to speak on behalf of the tribe.”

Tribal chairman Harold Frazer was unavailable for comment. However, the tribe’s administrative officer, Ken Little Feather, thought maybe the tribe’s child welfare director would have some answers. But she also didn’t want to go on the record only saying she was “surprised” by the tribal judge’s decision when the fathers have been awarded custody. She also said her office doesn’t get involved in such cases.

Meanwhile, the tribal judge didn’t return a call concerning the matter. The court’s office clerk said they couldn’t comment on the case because it involved juveniles.

There has been evidence, however, that the children are safe. A photograph in the local newspaper, the Timber Lake Topic, showed the older daughter in school during a Dr. Seuss program. Also, Stanley’s mother, Debra of Fargo, said she talked to Taylor in the Cass County jail recently and she told her the girls were safe and with her sister. She was also told that the girls had actually been back in North Dakota when they were taken to Bismarck to go swimming at a hotel on an outing.

Debra Stanley said she told Taylor that all she needed to do was make a phone call and it could be over.

“I just want to see my granddaughter, too. The kids are just getting the dirty end of this deal,” the grandmother said.

So while Taylor starts serving her prison sentence in New England, the girls remain on the reservation while the fathers keep trying to think of ways to get their daughters back.

Family spokesman Michael Nygaard, Aarin’s uncle, has pursued a solution to the dilemma with phone calls to attorneys, the reservation, politicians and Indian children welfare organizations.

All it would take, said Aarin Nygaard, is that phone call and it could be over. He said the mother is certainly being “stubborn.”

Perhaps, as Aarin Nygaard said, the case is a step closer with the sentencing, but Van de Streek in that meeting after the sentencing apologized to the family and summarized the situation by saying, “I’m sorry we aren’t in a better place.”

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