March 13, 2016
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.
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.
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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