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MADISON - In a decision that will help protect Wisconsin's children from victimization by adults, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held today that the crime of interfering with child custody is committed by someone who causes a child to leave a parent, even if the child is not in the presence of the parent at the time the crime is committed.
The state appellate court reached this conclusion in State of Wisconsin v. Isaiah Bowden, in which the court affirmed Bowden's Winnebago County convictions for interfering with child custody as a repeat offender. That statute punishes anyone who "causes a child to leave" a parent.
The facts adduced at trial show that Bowden, then 55, approached two young children as they walked home from school and persuaded them to go with him to the home of a friend. The two children did not know Bowden, but entered the house and did not try to runaway because of fear. The older child repeatedly told Bowden that they had to go home, and after about the fifth time Bowden was told, the children were escorted home by other adults.
Bowden argued on appeal that he did not violate the Wisconsin law making it a crime to interfere with child custody because the children were not with a parent at the time he persuaded them to join him. The court of appeals adopted the State's position and disagreed with Bowden, stating that "this was an instance of an adult stranger luring children from their designated journey home contrary to the directives and without the knowledge of a parent." It was not necessary for the children to be in the presence of the parent for the law to apply.
"This case is a victory for the safety of Wisconsin's children," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State on appeal. "It gives further clarity to a statute that is meant to protect children and families by punishing individuals who keep children away from their parents."
A copy of the court's decision is available at: http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=30735
Assistant Attorney General William Wolford represented the State of Wisconsin on appeal.