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Hansen must pay: Judge

Thursday, March 8, 2012

LYNCHBURG -- Torry Hansen has lost the child support lawsuit filed against her after refusing to appear in person.

Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell granted a motion for default judgment against the former Shelbyville resident, who had been ordered to appear in Lynchburg on Wednesday morning.

In April 2010, Hansen sent her adopted Russian son back to Moscow alone on a plane with a letter saying he was violent, had psychological problems and that she didn't want him anymore. Since that time, she has refused to cooperate with investigators after the then 7-year-old boy -- identified in court documents as Artem Saveliev, and also known as Justin Hansen -- arrived in Russia.

No criminal charges were ever filed, but Torry Hansen's adoption agency, World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP,) filed a lawsuit in May 2010 against her and her mother Nancy, seeking child support in Bedford County, where she was living at the time.

The suit was first filed in Circuit Court, then transferred to Juvenile Court, where it was dismissed by Judge Charles Rich last year. The current suit was refiled against Torry for breach of contract and child support last July, but she has never responded to the litigation.

Another letter

No attorney represented Hansen during the 10-minute hearing, but instead, she had hired a court recorder to document the proceedings.

Hansen faxed a letter to Circuit Court Clerk Thomas Smith on Tuesday, "to safeguard my legal and constitutional rights," stating that "due to the distance, severe financial hardship and standing of the petitioners to pursue this lawsuit, I am unable to comply" with Russell's order to appear in person.

WACAP attorney Larry Crain stated Wednesday that Russell had extended "every opportunity" to Hansen to be heard, but has "demonstrated nothing but disdain for the rules and order of this court."

Crain also requested attorney's fees for the times she did not appear for discovery and a protective order to a request from the Hansens for documents from WACAP. Crain added that he would not be filing any motion for contempt against Hansen, as he had previously stated.

Russell found Hansen to be liable for damages, and has precluded her from presenting any testimony on that issue.

"She may have had issues she could have raised, but she has chosen not to participate in this process," Russell said.

More accusations

In her latest letter, Hansen also made claims that her former attorney, Sandra Smith, said that Russell and WACAP attorney Larry Crain "go way back," attending college together and were friends.

"I do not believe that I can obtain a fair and unbiased hearing from this court," Hansen wrote. "Judge Russell has not followed judicial procedure and has shown bias and judicial misconduct."

Crain called the accusations "utterly absurd" and Russell noted from the bench that aside from one case they may have worked on together 30 years ago, he could not remember Crain, who graduated from Vanderbilt a year before the judge did.

Hansen also stated that the groups suing her have no authority to "obtain sensitive and invasive information from me." Hansen again requested paperwork for a court appointed attorney in her letter.

Russian questions

Hansen also wrote that Crain has not presented any legal documents verifying that Leonid Lvovich Mityaev is the boy's legal guardian in Russia, noting he "is simply the director of a state run orphanage" where the child used to live and that he is "not the physical custodian."

She also claims that WACAP and NCFA "have continued to conspire with Pavel Astakhov and Mr. Mityaev to create false reports in regards to Artem to further their agenda."

"The proper party to any legal proceeding concerning Artem is the municipal government of the Russian Federation," Hansen claimed.

She also said that she does not speak for the child as the adoption was canceled and "I am not the legal parent."

"This lawsuit is about WACAP trying to redeem themselves in the eyes of certain Russian officials," Hansen said, also claiming that it was filed after her mother, Nancy Hansen, told the Russian Ministry of Education and Science that WACAP had provided "a fraudulent post-placement report."

"Bunker mentality"

Following the hearing, Crain told reporters that "the real victim here is Justin Hansen and his voice needs to be heard in this case," adding that expert testimony would be heard on May 17 about what the child has gone through, including testimony from the man who picked the child up at the Moscow airport.

"Whether or not Ms. Hansen will ever realize the consequences of her actions remains to be seen, but at least we know now that there's been a ruling by the court that she is determined to be liable for her actions," Crain said.

Hansen has been given opportunities to be heard and due process rights, but has "flippantly ignored" the chances to tell her side of the story, Crain told the assembled media on Wednesday.

"To adopt what I call a 'bunker mentality' and just say 'come and get me if you can,' ... is counter productive to her case," adding he looked forward to the hearing in May to determine damages.

Crain said those damages could include child support, plus expenses on behalf of the child, plus the expenses of the adoption contract being breached, and may run into "tens of thousands of dollars." He added that the support would be required until the boy is 18.

Crain claimed that Hansen's attempt to annul the adoption failed in Russia, although that government terminated the adoption, "but it didn't disrupt her ongoing obligation as a parent for support," saying that under Russian law, that obligation continues.

Can be found

Ray Stoner, attorney for the National Council for Adoption, explained that there is no treaty between Russia and the United State in regards to child support, so it's up to the Tennessee court to determine how the money is assessed.

Stoner said that the money would be sent to Russia for the boy's benefit.

"It's appalling that she (Torry Hansen) claims she's the victim, the child's the victim here," Stoner said.

When asked how that Torry will pay the child support, Crain said that "Ms. Hansen can be found," noting that child support arrears is enforceable in all 50 states.

The boy is now in a group home in Russia and Crain said he is "not adoptable for a lot of reason having to do with what he has gone through."

Crain said that the eyes of the Russian authorities and the Ministry of Education "are on this case .. to make sure this never happens again."

Stoner said what was important is what was going to happen during the damages phase, with Crain saying he would ask for attorney's fees of $5,000.

Had been appealed

Crain had appealed the final decision of the juvenile court last year in the case that accused the Hansens of dependence and negligence.

Juvenile Court Judge Charles Rich dismissed the case with prejudice on June 24, 2011, saying that since the Russians were not going to be returning the boy to Tennessee, there was no issue concerning his safety and welfare.

"Now that the child permanently resides and has been repatriated in the Russian Federation, that government has established itself as the proper venue and jurisdiction for any further proceedings relative to the parental status of the Respondents (the Hansens)."

Rich also ruled that to grant any child support payable to the Russian authorities would be "further counterproductive" and was "not in the child's best interest because that government may not ever proceed with permanency for the child so as to not interrupt the income stream."

Crain explained that the money would be going into a trust fund for the boy, and an individual from Russia would be testifying to that in May.

"The irony is if you leave a child in your car with the windows rolled up in a parking lot, you can be arrested, but send a child 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, and there are no consequences for it, is truly disturbing," Crain said