On November 29, 2022, the district court in New Jersey vacated Mr. Patel’s conviction by a NJ jury under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act. This case has been ongoing for several years. There is a long and storied history, but distilled in part, Mr. Patel and his minor child left the United States via JFK Airport on July 26, 2017, a few months after a NJ family court approved of an agreement between Mr. and Ms. Patel that granted Mr. Patel sole legal and physical custody and the right to reside with the child anywhere in the world. Ms. Patel later argued that she was induced into signing the agreement, believing it was necessary for the child to secure a visa to travel to India for 2-4 weeks, and that she never read the agreement prior to its execution. In October 2018, Ms. Patel sought a modification of the custody order. On or about October 16, 2018, the NJ family court ordered Mr. Patel to return the minor child to the United States immediately. It gave no “parenting” rights to Ms. Patel in the order, although later, the AUSA argued that this 2018 order modified the 2017 order. This is false, and one of the arguments Mr. Patel used to vacate his indictment.
Throughout the criminal proceedings, the AUSA was entirely unclear in its indictment. The actual indictment was framed as a violation of the 2018 order to return the minor child to NJ. However, throughout the jury trial, the AUSA consistently argued that the 2017 court order was fraudulently induced, and therefore, was invalid, leaving Ms. Patel with custody rights over the child by operation of law when the child exited the United States for India with his father. This also ignored evidence presented to a judge in London. In October 2020, Ms. Patel allegedly lured Mr. Patel and the child to London, under the guise of taking a holiday. She then filed a Hague Abduction Convention return petition, which was ultimately denied because the English court found that she had inconsistencies in her testimony on important issues, and she was deliberately lying to make out a stronger case for an asylum petition she had filed in the United States. The child was ultimately sent back to India by the English court, where the child was placed with his paternal grandparents, as Mr. Patel sat in jail in England, and then extradited to the U.S. for this case.
Ultimately, the district court vacated the jury indictment in the IPKCA matter because the indictment was amended improperly by the AUSA who pinpointed one date as the date of kidnapping but argued a date 14 months earlier. Ms. Patel could have, and should have, pursued legal recourse in the NJ family court, and it was inappropriate for the AUSA to essentially try to un-do a valid custody order from the state court in federal criminal litigation.