A Herkimer Kidnapping – Somangshu Mukherji and the Herkimer Sheriff

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Stephen Ames Berry

“A child is not a dog. No matter whose child. It requires more to lawfully take a child than it does a dog. Even in Herkimer.”  Look no further than Herkimer, New York, USA, to see the illegal taking of a child from his family.  On 4/24/19, Herkimer County sheriff’s deputies entered our home and took our two-year-old grandson Avram from his mother. They didn’t have a warrant. They didn’t have a valid court order. They said they had “verbal permission.” 

A Herkimer Kidnapping – In The Tradition of Schindler’s List

It  was kidnapping under the color of law. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. We’ve seen Herkimer Child Protection Workers violate state law as they go the extra mile to denounce parents and families they don’t approve of. And Herkimer long shrugged off poison gas attacks on us, our pets and our home. So why not, also in the tradition of Schindler’s List, an armed, uniformed squad taking a child from his bed? They even wore brown. What made it especially heinous was their acting for an out-of-state foreign national seemingly desperate to avoid paying child support. 

Even In Herkimer A Child Is Not A Dog

It requires more to lawfully take a child than it does a dog. Even in Herkimer. No matter how inconvenient. No matter whose child. New York’s Domestic Relations Law  governs the return of  a child to a parent in another state. It incorporates the provisions of the federal Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The law requires registration of an out-of-state custody order with the local family court, due notice and a hearing. Then the custody order can be legally enforced. It only takes a few days. Apparently too cumbersome for scofflaw Herkimer.

Herkimer Family Court Involvement?

The deputies said they had “verbal authorization” [Video, below: 1:56] from Judge John Brennan of the Herkimer Family Court to take our grandson. If so, Brennan played fast and loose with the law. New York’s family courts are notoriously packed and dysfunctional. Scooping up a kid without a warrant for an out-of-state return and whisking him to the waiting parent avoids further clogging the court calendar with the tedium of due process. Especially when the outcome appears predetermined. In an extrajudicial kidnapping like this–in legalese, “an illegal taking”– speed is of the essence: Not much a parent can do when the kid’s back in the other state. It seems a cynical practice encourage by long success. Had our daughter been known to have an attorney, and lived at a better Herkimer address, the law might have been followed.  

Anonymous Herkimer Sheriff's Officer during extrajudicial kidnapping
4/24/19 “We have verbal authority [to take the child.”] Intentionally anonymous Herkimer Sheriff’s officer during extrajudicial kidnapping. Refused repeated demands to identify himself. WHAT COUNTRY IS THIS? Herkimer, apparently.

“2:41: Nameless sheriff’s officer waves to unidentified woman in unmarked car down the street to approach closer.”

HERKIMER KIDNAPPING – VIDEO
A Herkimer Kidnapping

A Herkimer Kidnapping

Video Timeline 001-1:05 Herkimer County Sheriff’s deputies, accompanied by Herkimer police officer, arrive at our house. (Police here to protect deputies from us.)
1:06-1:14 I foolishly let them in without asking for a warrant or court order. I assumed they were acting lawfully. Never assume this in Herkimer County.
1:15-1:15 One deputy identifies himself as Sgt. George. The other merely says “Herkimer County Sheriff.” (He’s not the sheriff.)
1:20 – 1:55 Sgt. George reads the order to our daughter. It’s quickly apparent it’s a Michigan court order. George states it authorizes them to take our grandson for return to his father in Michigan. It doesn’t. I  object, citing New York law and the procedure necessary to lawfully execute an out-of-state custody order in New York. Sgt. George says they have verbal permission from Herkimer County Family Court to enforce the Michigan court order. I continue to dispute their authority. 2:41 – 2:54 Deputy(?) Nameless tells me to “go argue the order” with Herkimer County Family Court Judge John Brennan if I don’t like it. I point out that I can’t, it’s a Michigan court order. Judge Brennan is a New York judge. He has not issued an order in this matter. Nameless Deputy repeats that they have verbal authority from Judge Brennan to take our grandchild. Seems hostile.
3:14 – 3:20 “Where is the child?” they demand.
3:21 – 3:45 Little Avram taken. Nameless sheriff’s officer waves to unidentified woman in unmarked car down the street to approach closer. She hesitatingly does so.  May know we’d recently reported Herkimer CPS workers Sara Riente and Lisa Bates to NY authorities for malfeasance.
3:46 – 4:36 Avram passed to unidentified woman wearing unviewable badge driving unmarked car. 
4:37 – 4:56 Grandma gives kindly Herkimer Police Officer Holt clothes and shoes for shoeless Avram, who takes them to the sheriff’s deputies.
End: Unknown woman in unmarked car makes good her escape with our grandson. 

“Our grandson now lives in an upscale townhouse in an upscale college town with his Rhodes Scholar professor-‘father’. We fear for his safety.”

A Herkimer Kidnapping Finale

Gloating email later that evening from Mukherji to our daughter saying he was at a Herkimer motel and that Avram had been returned to him. He’s refused all attempts at contact by our daughter. Our grandson now lives in an upscale townhouse in an upscale college town with his Rhodes Scholar professor father. We fear for his safety. Why? Read on.

A Herkimer Kidnapping – Backstory

In late January 2018, our daughter escaped with our grandson from her allegedly abusive and neglectful husband, Somangshu Mukherji, an Indian national. As she attests in her custody case court filings, he’d allowed her no contact with us for years and kept her in almost complete social and physical isolation.  Mukherji’s a nontenured assistant professor of Music at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He’s not the child’s birth father. Our daughter alleges in her custody case filings that Mukherji signed Avram’s birth certificate to enhance his status with US Immigration. 

The trigger for our daughter’s flight to Herkimer was Mukherji’s announcing the three of them were going on a trip with him to Turkey, along with his equally abusive mother. The US State Department advises against travel to Turkey: “terrorism, kidnappings and arbitrary detentions.” Anything could happen, especially to a toddler. Sounded like it might be a one-way trip for the “son” our daughter alleges Somangshu calls “the little bastard.” Somangshu’s vigilance slipped for a moment and our daughter and grandchild bolted for here. Penniless, she took a cab across several states, paying with the Uber account Somangshu kept on her phone for his convenience. 

Somangshu Mukherji – No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Somangshu Mukherji raiding
Somangshu Mukherji sneering at me as he trespasses on our porch.

Somangshu Mukherji’s Green Card and his well-paid professorship were made possible by his marriage to our severely bipolar American-born daughter.

And we took a hand, too, having earlier and foolishly helped him stay in the US. In 2003, we sponsored Mukherji after Harvard dropped their sponsorship of him as  grad student, alleging “academic dishonesty,” according to our daughter’s court filings. (Mukherji had earlier been a research assistant to Harvard evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser, who was found guilty of scientific misconduct and served a sentence on federal charges.)

At our daughter’s pleading, we posted a $40k bond for Mukherji with the U.S. Department of State so that he could remain in the US. (17% of our total assets at the time.)  Mukherji’s repaid us by allegedly exploiting and abusing our daughter, misusing his medical guardianship of her and denying our grandchild clothes, shoes and toys. “Never a dime,” alleges our daughter in her Ann Arbor MI Family Court custody defense filings. (Case 19-352-DC )

“Professor Mukherji argued that his wife was psychotic and a threat to his son. He offered as proof of her insanity the fact that she had left him.”

Somangshu Mukherji in Pursuit

Upon their arrival at our home, I texted Mukherji that his missing wife and her two-year old son were safe with us in Herkimer. No reply, but his feet must not have touched the ground as he raced to his attorney’s office to file for sole custody of the son he’d always allegedly neglected—the son of his wife and another man–and for the child’s immediate return to him in Ann Arbor. Doing the math he may have suddenly realized his love for the boy and wanted him back: child support would cost him over $1,000 a month.

After a long court battle in Ann Arbor, Somangshu Mukherji was awarded sole custody. (He had a lawyer, our daughter didn’t. Ann Arbor Legal Aid, which is partially supported by U. Mich Law School, wouldn’t represent her.) My summary of his lengthy case and filings: Professor Mukherji argued that his wife was psychotic and a threat to his son. He offered as proof of her insanity the fact that she had left him.

Here’s our daughter’s Michigan court filings in the case. It’s the sad and probably all too common tale of how an unscrupulous foreign national can exploit a mentally ill American to jump the Green Card queue and secure a good job.  And then escaped unscathed by taking advantage of America’s patchwork of child custody laws and fragmented family court structure. 

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Somangshu Mukherji Schmoozes the Sheriff

Mukherji apparently established a cordial relationship with Herkimer  County Sheriff’s personnel during his 4/11/19 trip to Herkimer, likely through then Herkimer Undersheriff Scott Scherer. His Michigan court approved visitation of that date seemed to me a transparent attempt to nab our grandson on the cheap. He may have convinced the sheriff’s staff that his “son” was in grave danger from the psychotic mother, loony grandmother and pedophile grandfather. (From his slanderous Child Protection reports, since dismissed.)  The day before the kidnapping, Mukherji won sole custody of Avram in an Ann Arbor court.  Victorious at last, he immediately flew to Herkimer to take possession.

Michigan court order in hand, Somangshu was but one step from obtaining a lawful custody order, one issued by a New York court, which the Herkimer county sheriff could legally enforce. He needed only to register his Michigan order with the Herkimer Family Court, which could, after a hearing for all parties, issue a New York order mandating the return of the child to Michigan, all  required by New York law. Of course, it would have cost Mukherji more money. Instead, Herkimer County cut him a break him by skipping past New York law and sending its deputies right over to take Avram from his nap. I’ve known Somangshu since 2003–he can be very charming when he wants something.

Preventing A Herkimer Kidnapping: “Get A Warrant”

I suspect the  Herkimer Family Court and the Herkimer County Sheriff get away with this all the time, possibly by saying that the parent voluntarily consented to accept service of the out-of-state custody order. As the video of this illegal taking shows, our daughter did not do that. The Herkimer sheriff’s officers presented her with the Michigan court order, which without a New York order had all the validity of a Post-It-Note. I contested their authority and cited the UCCJEA and applicable New York law. They didn’t care. Told me to “get a lawyer.” [video-2:41] “We will now take the child” said they. And they did.l This extrajudicial kidnapping spared Professor Mukherji the bother and expense of obtaining a legal New York custody order.

What country is this?

Avram Mukherji's first toys everReporting Malfeasance by New York Public Officers 

New York Attorney General, Bureau of Public Integrity

Reporting Civil Rights Violations in New York

New York Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
125 Broad St., 19th Fl.
New York,  NY 10004.
Telephone: 212-607-3300

“Unlawful discrimination that reflects a policy or practice of discrimination:”
The Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office

Is a judge involved? Allegedly involved?

New York – Reporting Judicial Misconduct

New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct Corning Tower, Suite 2301 Empire State Plaza Albany, NY 12223 If you videoed the incident, as we did in A Herkimer Kidnapping, either upload it to the agencies or send it in with your complaint on a thumb-drive.  Publish it on social media. It’s New York.  It’s your right. Use it or lose it.

How to Report Immigration Marriage Fraud

Author:

This blog is my perspective on dwelling in our small village nestled among beautiful forests, farms and open landscapes. Educated in Israel and the US, I have an MS in Computer Science. My viewpoint has been shaped by world travel, friends and benefactors both strangers and people I know. Linda Kaidan