Stepmom pleads guilty in Montana kids' abduction

AP News
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Posted: May 30, 2012 7:50 PM
Stepmom pleads guilty in Montana kids' abduction

The stepmother of three children taken by their father to the Bahamas on a sailboat against custody orders has pleaded guilty to a criminal charge under an agreement with Montana prosecutors.

Angela Bryant, 45, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Gallatin County to a single felony count of parenting interference by accountability, court officials said. Two more counts were dropped by prosecutors.

The plea deal calls for a six-month prison sentence for Bryant, to be suspended on condition that she spend 180 days in jail and pay court costs.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 9 before state Distrct Judge Mike Salvagni.

Bryant was released Wednesday afternoon on her own recognizance after entering the guilty plea, according to the Gallatin County Clerk of District Court.

The three children were supposed to be returned to their mother in Montana last September under a court-ordered custody plan. They were missing for more than seven months before authorities found them on the sailboat off the Florida coast.

Salvagni is not bound by the plea deal. Parenting interference carries a maximum sentence in Montana of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

The children's father, James Ray Bryant, pleaded guilty this month in a deal that calls for him to spend four years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for June 27.

Angela Bryant's attorney, Gary Balaz, declined comment Wednesday.

Gallatin County Chief Deputy County Attorney Todd Whipple, who prosecuted the case, also declined comment pending sentencing in the case.

Angela Bryant was arrested in Hawaii in March after authorities received an anonymous tip on her whereabouts.

Police in Hawaii found Bryant staying with a relative in the Puna district, and put the home under surveillance. She was arrested during a traffic stop. She told police that her husband and the children were in South Florida.

On March 27, border agents searching for Bryant and the children spotted a boat 30 miles off the Florida coast attempting to return to Bahamian waters. The children _ Megan Bryant, 15, Maxwell Bryant, 13, and Sebastian Bryant, 12 _ were on board, along with a dog, a cat, a lizard and a snake.

Authorities said they had no reason to believe the children were in any immediate danger. They were reunited with their mother and legal guardian, Kelly Bryant, in Belgrade, Mont.

After her arrest, Angela Bryant declined to waive her right to an extradition hearing. Weeks of delayed hearings ensued until Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer made a direct request for her to be brought back to the state to face charges.