A mother's nightmare will not include jail time

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. --- The mother of two children who alleged they were sexually abused by their Navy father was spared a Christmas stay in jail Friday.

Circuit Judge Glenn Croshaw denied a request from the father’s attorney to enforce an earlier order declaring the mother in contempt of court, subject to a 10-day jail sentence unless she paid a $5,000 fine.

Croshaw issued the contempt citation in March, persuaded by the father’s attorney that the mother had improperly contacted the Navy about the abuse allegations, jeopardizing the father’s career.

The mother denied Friday that she had contacted the Navy. She said she is destitute and unable to pay the fine.

“I’m just trying to give my children a stable home,” she said.

The father, a lieutenant, was accused of sexually abusing his then 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. Both allegations were ­initially found credible by city social workers, but the lieutenant was cleared by the Navy. He signed a consent decree with the city Department of Human Services that stated he had abused his daughter but has faced no criminal prosecution.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service opened an investigation after learning the details of the case from The Virginian-Pilot.

In keeping with its policy of not identifying victims of sexual abuse, The Pilot is not naming any of the family members.

“I really think that this case has spun a little bit out of control,” Croshaw said at Friday’s hearing. “This needs to be put behind us.”

The abuse allegations arose during a protracted divorce case that dates from 2009.

After refusing to jail the mother, the judge ordered that a settlement conference be held promptly to finalize the divorce. Continued litigation is another form of abuse of the children, he said.

Croshaw said he didn’t know the full context of the case until he read the court file this week. Every circuit judge in Virginia Beach has had a hand in the case at some point, he said, and whenever a new judge becomes involved, “a sliver of it at a time comes forward.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “I drew the last straw.”

The father’s attorney, Richard Garriott, said after the hearing that his client continues to deny the abuse allegations, despite signing the consent decree in the daughter’s case. The decree includes a clause stating that it does not constitute an admission of legal liability.

Garriott also provided a copy of a Feb. 15 letter from the Department of Human Services stating that the abuse findings in the son’s case had been overturned after an appeal by the father. A hearing officer said the allegations by the boy – who has multiple disabilities – were rambling and unfocused, casting doubt on his credibility.

The abuse findings in the daughter’s case, however, remain of “serious concern,” the officer noted in the same letter.

The mother had no attorney at Friday’s hearing. The father, who is now stationed on the West Coast, was not in court.

The mother and four children are living in a small motel room at the Oceanfront.

Since their plight was described by The Pilot on Dec. 8, a charity established to help them has received $7,500 in donations.

Croshaw also denied a request from Garriott that he impose a gag order forbidding the parties from speaking to the media.

“I get a little hung up on the First Amendment,” the judge said.

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