CLEVELAND (AP) — A boy who was taken from his Alabama home by his father in 2002 and raised in Ohio under a new identity recently reconnected with his mother in Alabama, the father's attorney said Tuesday after his client pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and other charges.
Attorney Ralph DeFranco said Julian Hernandez visited his mother over Thanksgiving. He provided no details about the reunion between the woman and her now-18-year-old son but acknowledged the lost years in that relationship.
"That's the down side of this, the mother being deprived of access to her son," DeFranco said. But he said his client, Bobby Hernandez, was a good father and raised a good son — a student-athlete with top grades and college aspirations — and "couldn't have done any more for him."
The mother has declined to comment through her attorney, Gloria Allred, and the teen has said in a statement that he simply wants privacy and to get back to a normal life.
Authorities allege his father, Bobby Hernandez, took the boy from the mother's home in the Birmingham area when he was 5 and left a note saying so, then created a life for them in Ohio under new identities, calling himself Jonathan Mangina. The ruse fell apart this fall when discrepancies with the teen's Social Security number were discovered as he began the college application process, leading to Hernandez's arrest in early November.
DeFranco said Hernandez has been forthcoming about what happened, though the lawyer said he could not offer details of the father's motives.
Hernandez, 53, was arraigned Tuesday in Cuyahoga County court on 32 counts, including charges of forgery, records tampering and interference with custody. Dressed in an orange jail outfit, he said little during the three-minute appearance as a judge accepted his not-guilty pleas and maintained his $250,000 bond.
DeFranco said they would seek a lower bond and eventually talk with prosecutors about a possible plea deal. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 10.
Hernandez and his son have talked on the phone and seen each other since the arrest, DeFranco said.
The teen has continued to live at the home he shared in Cleveland with his father, his father's fiancee and her children, DeFranco said.
Associated Press writer Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.
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This story has been corrected to show Hernandez is 53, not 54.