LANCASTER, N.H. (AP) — A mother and stepfather entered surprise guilty pleas Wednesday to charges they fled the country more than a decade ago with her daughter amid a custody dispute.
Genevieve and Scott Kelley pleaded guilty during a pretrial hearing to misdemeanor charges of custodial interference. Additional felony charges of custodial interference and witness tampering were dropped.
The plea deal calls for Genevieve Kelley, who was a family doctor in Whitefield, to serve 10 months in jail after Scott Kelley serves five months. The sentences were staggered so their 10-year-old son will not be without a parent.
The couple took then-8-year-old Mary Nunes out of the country in 2004. They said they did it to protect the girl and accused her father, Mark Nunes, of abuse.
Mark Nunes was investigated but was never charged, and investigators said they thought he was unfairly accused.
Genevieve Kelley, 51, turned herself in in November, saying she wanted to go to trial. Scott Kelley, 50, was arrested at the Atlanta airport in April when he and Mary Nunes, now 19, returned to the U.S. from Costa Rica.
Nunes was allowed to continue her trip because she was not charged with a crime, though authorities would not reveal her destination.
At the hearing in Coos Superior Court on Wednesday, one of Genevieve Kelley's two lawyers, Alan Rosenfeld, told the judge he thought she was being coerced into pleading guilty, threatened by the possibility of a felony conviction that could bring a prison term of up to five years on each of two counts.
"I couldn't be part of it," Rosenfeld said. "Originally, a similar plea bargain had been rejected by Genevieve Kelley a few months ago, and in order to get her to accept it the prosecutor brought these absolutely frivolous charges."
Judge Peter Bornstein initially said he couldn't accept a plea bargain because of Rosenfeld's objection. Kelley asked that her other lawyer, John McKinnon, be allowed to accept the plea. After a lunch break, Rosenfeld told the judge there were no threats made against Genevieve Kelley and the judge accepted the plea.
"She and Scott very much want to get on with their lives," Rosenfeld said. "They want the finality."
Mark Nunes was traveling from the hearing Wednesday afternoon and could not immediately comment. A call to Scott Kelley's lawyer was not immediately returned.
Rosenfeld said Mary Nunes intends to return to New Hampshire to live with the Kelleys when their jail terms are completed.
This story has been corrected to show Genevieve and Scott Kelley pleaded guilty to custodial interference, not witness tampering.