In State v. Froland, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently heard arguments on the question as to whether a stepmother could be found guilty of kidnapping her husband’s children from a prior marriage.
Stacey Froland, the stepmother of her husband’s child form a prior marriage and John Kindt, her husband and the natural father of the children, stocked a 39 foot boat with several months worth of provisions, maps and charts for the Bahamas and several books like "Cruising with Children", "How to be Invisible" and "Hide Your Assets and Disappear".
The children’s mother intervened and both Kindt and Froland were arrested and charged with first degree kidnapping. Froland, the stepmother was convicted and sentenced to 7 years in prison.
The charges against Kindt, the natural father, were dismissed under an interpretation of the kidnapping statute which concluded that the removal of the children was "with the consent of a parent", namely Kindt.
In response to a question from Justice Virginia Long, the prosecutor responded and argued that Ms. Froland’s conviction for kidnapping should stand even if the Court were to conclude that Mr. Kindt, her husband and co-participant in the plan should go scott free.
Thus, if the Court accepts the prosecutor’s argument, a second spouse/step parent could be sentenced to prison for kidnapping the children of a spouse’s prior marriage prior spouse even if the spouse his/herself is exempt form such prosecution.
If Mr. Kindt, the parent of the children has the authority to authorize the trip, how then could Ms. Froland who was participating in the actively under the authority and authorization of Mr. Kindt (who apparently had the authority to authorize the trip) be criminally culpable? The case raises important issues as to how the role of stepparent may or may not interact with the stepchildren, and will undoubtedly be watched closely by a variety of interest groups and legal pundits.