Harnick calls for review of abduction case

September 22, 1997


Mother faces extradition from Florida for trial

By Alan Barnes and Donna Jean MacKinnon
Toronto Star Staff Reporters

The Ontario government is reconsidering its efforts to have Amber Meeler brought here from Florida to face trial on a charge of abducting her daughter from Canada..
Meeler, who lives in Marathon on the Florida Keys, appeared in a Miami court Friday where she "conceded to extradition" if Ontario does not drop the case against her by Oct. 17..
"If I have to go to Canada, I'll be out on bail automatically and will be able to return to Florida right away," she said in a telephone interview..
Meeler's lawyer, Clayton Ruby, said Ontario Attorney-General Charles Harnick called for a review of the case after Meeler's story was told in The Star last week by columnist Michele Landsberg..
Ruby said Harnick will reconsider his position and will notify him by Oct. 3 of his decision..
"This is entirely because of the Star story. To extradite this mother on criminal charges would be absolutely flabbergasting. But I'm sure cooler heads will prevail," Ruby said..
Meeler also credited Landsberg with the change in attitude. "It's a miracle," she said..
A spokesperson for Harnick said that as the case is before the courts, "it would be inappropriate to comment."
Meeler was given sole custody of 6-year-old Jasmine Valentyne under an arrangement agreed to by her former husband, Pietro Valentyne, during their divorce in Ontario five years ago..
The child abduction charge followed Meeler's secret move to the United States with her daughter in 1994..
Valentyne went to court to get access to the daughter, but the court was never informed that a valid divorce and custody order existed, Ruby told Landsberg..
Harnick authorized criminal charges against Meeler and requested her extradition on mistaken information, Landsberg wrote..
And ex-husband Valentyne agreed that it was in the best interests of Jasmine that she remain in the care and custody of her mother, she wrote..
"I'm willing to put my vindictiveness behind me; I want this to be over," Valentyne told The Star..
Frank Tamen, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the extradition order, told Meeler's lawyer last year that "if an agreed resolution is possible, I would certainly like to see it happen before I have to begin preparing for an extradition hearing."
Meeler said that once light was shed on her plight in The Star, government officials realized they didn't have a case..
If Harnick continues with the case, she said, she would fly to Toronto Oct. 16 for a bail hearing and then be free to return to Florida to await trial..
But "nobody thinks it is going to go that far," Meeler said..

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