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Valencian lawyer freed from US jail, but yet to head home to see daughter

María José Carrascosa was sent to prison after taking child to Spain against wishes of father

The cover of María José Carrascosa’s book. Ampliar foto
The cover of María José Carrascosa’s book.

María José Carrascosa, an attorney from Valencia, Spain, was given a 14-year prison sentence in the United States after she moved her daughter to her native country without the permission of the child’s father, American-born Peter Williams Innes. Despite being convicted of interfering with custody, Carrascosa refused to comply with court orders to bring the child back to the United States. The Valencian native is now working on a book based on her story, A Broken American Dream.

Carrascosa was released on parole a few months ago but she remains in the United States, where she has petitioned for habeas corpus. She wants a federal court to review her case and what she says was her “illegal imprisonment,” and recognize the damages and harm she and her family suffered as a consequence.

Meanwhile, her 16-year-old daughter Victoria Solenne, is still living with her maternal grandparents in Valencia.

The Valencian attorney says she has been “internationally persecuted, deprived of freedom, life, and family”

On the night before Christmas Eve in 2009, then-44-year-old Carrascosa broke down in tears after New Jersey Superior Court Judge Donald R. Venezia sentenced her to 14 years jail time. “The game is over,” he said. “Yours is a case of hate and vengeance that you yourself created. You have considered your daughter a property.” Carrascosa was convicted of willful interference with custody and defying a court order to return the child to the United States. Still, the Valencian attorney says she has been “internationally persecuted, deprived of freedom, life, and family because of false crimes.”

In late 1998, Carrascosa, who had been working between the United States and in Spain for 15 years, met Innes online. After a few months, they married in Valencia. Their daughter, Victoria, was born a year later. Then, the nightmare began.

María José Carrascosa.
María José Carrascosa.

Carrascosa reported her husband for allegedly poisoning her with arsenic, saying that this was why doctors had to remove her spleen and part of her pancreas. Innes has denied these allegations on a number of occasions. In the end, Innes made a private agreement with Carrascosa to let their daughter live with her mother, a deal that did not mean the girl could not travel to Valencia, where she was registered as a resident.

Once in Spain, Carrascosa filed for annulment and divorce. She also received custody of her daughter. After losing several appeals before the Spanish courts, Innes turned to the American justice system, where a judge ruled in his favor.

While in the United States for a court appearance, Carrascosa was arrested and sent to Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey. She never returned to Spain and her odyssey continues.

She has left friends and family behind. Her sister, Victoria, who said Carrascosa was innocent and wanted to see her niece stay in Spain, no longer agrees with what she described as her sibling’s “absurd” fight. “I no longer have anything to say about my sister’s case,” she told EL PAÍS.

Innes and his son, Peter.
Innes and his son, Peter.

The attorney found comfort in Father Antonio Álvarez, whom she met in prison. And she has the support of her parents and her daughter, with whom she speaks every day on Skype. “The worst is over. Now she is free,” her father, José Carrascosa, told this newspaper. Speaking from Buñol, a town in Valencia where the family is spending their summer vacation, the father said he hoped they would all spend Christmas together this year. “Now what we all want and what we hope for is that this year, finally, we will be able to eat turrones together,” in reference to a traditional Spanish confection eaten during the holiday season.

Meanwhile, Peter W. Innes told EL PAÍS that he is surprised and sad that his ex-wife has not returned to Spain “to be with our daughter because there is nothing at all holding her back given that the terms of her release do not require her to stay in the United States.” Innes said that Carrascosa’s most fervent defender, her sister, agrees with him on this point.

“Instead of returning to Spain and focusing on our daughter, María José Carrascosa continues to fight a battle against United States courts that she will not win, because her statements are not based on reality,” Innes said. “Her version of the facts is not true. She and Victoria were never victims of any kind of abuse. What she is doing, instead of moving on with her life, is acting like a victim of actions that never took place.”

Innes with his wife and son.
Innes with his wife and son.

The father has not seen or spoken to his daughter since “she was kidnapped more than 10 years ago.” “I hope that when she is of age we will be able to find a way to begin a healthy relationship without the intervention of courts, lawyers and her grandparents.” Innes, the owner of a prestigious advertising firm, has rebuilt his life. He remarried and has a nine-year-old son, Peter. His wife, a retired New York police officer, came into the marriage with two older children. “We are a normal family,” Innes said, “that hopes to welcome Victoria in our home very soon.”

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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