Halifax Daily News

Wednesday, February 17, 1999

Woman gets one day in jail for abduction

By Parker Barss Dunham -- Special to The Daily News

TRURO - Two years after abducting her own children to the United States, a former Princeport, Colchester Co., resident walked out of provincial court a free woman yesterday.

Acting on a joint submission by Crown and defence lawyers, Judge Ross Archibald sentenced Shoshannah Schweidenback Creelman to one day in jail, served by her appearance in court, after she pleaded guilty to two counts of parental abduction.

Crown attorney Nigel Allen told the court Creelman took her two boys with intent to deprive their father, Sydney resident Ralph MacLean, of court-ordered access.

He said a Rhode Island court has since given her full custody of the boys, now aged seven and nine, despite a Nova Scotia court order granting custody to MacLean.

Fled in 1997

"That's not an issue I'm going to address in these proceedings," he said.

Creelman, a U.S. citizen who has since married, fled Nova Scotia in December 1997, despite a warning from the RCMP that doing so would result in criminal prosecution.

U.S. Marshals, acting on a Canadian warrant, arrested her last spring. She spent the last 10 months in the federal women's detention centre at Farmington, Mass., fighting extradition.

RCMP officers from the Truro detachment flew to Boston on Sunday and returned her to Nova Scotia on Monday after her U.S. lawyers worked out the plea bargain with Allen. Legal aid lawyer Malcolm Jeffcock, who took on the file just minutes before the hearing, told Archibald Creelman waived her right to invoke section 285 of the Criminal Code.

It provides a defence against abduction charges if "the action was necessary to protect the young person against imminent harm."

Creelman, who appeared tired and subdued, spoke only three times during the 15-minute court appearance yesterday.

She replied, "Guilty, sir," twice when Archibald asked for her pleas on each of two charges. After the two lawyers made brief submissions on sentencing, Archibald asked if she had anything to say.

Wants to go home

Creelman whispered a question to Jeffcock, then said, "No, sir."

She declined to speak with a reporter after the hearing, saying, "All I want to do is go home."

A man who identified himself as her father-in-law said he had not had a chance to speak with Creelman since her return to Nova Scotia, but he expected she would want to drive back to Rhode Island as soon as possible.

In his submission on sentencing, Allen told the court the "considerable, disagreeable period of incarceration" she had served in the crowded Massachusetts prison would satisfy the public interest in deterrence.

To serve 10 months in a Canadian prison, she would likely have to receive a five-year sentence - far longer that typical sentences for parental abduction.