Superior Court Judge Judith McConnell on Friday sentenced Betty Lou Batey to 15 days in jail and fined her $3,000 on three counts of civil contempt she faced for disobeying court orders and taking her son out of Southern California without permission.
However, McConnell suspended the jail sentence because the 40-year-old woman had served 13 days in jail in Colorado.
The judge also suspended Batey's fine for one year on the condition that she follow court instructions.
Batey and her ex-husband, Frank, were involved in a bitter custody fight over their 13-year-old son, Brian. Batey, a fundamentalist Christian, was convicted of three counts of civil contempt in October for fleeing with Brian in 1982 and hiding him in Denver. Frank Batey, who is an acknowledged homosexual, had been awarded custody of the child.
McConnell said she was upset by the behavior that led to the contempt proceedings. Batey's actions showed a "willful and flagrant violation of a court order," McConnell said. "I cannot condone that." She added that Batey "chose to take the law in her own hands" by abducting the boy without informing the court or obtaining the permission of her ex-husband.
"Brian is at a very delicate time in his life," McConnell told Batey after the sentencing, "and he needs your support and encouragement." Brian also needs to develop a better relationship with his father, McConnell said, urging Batey to help Brian develop that relationship.
Batey was convicted of violating a court order that prohibited her from taking Brian out of Southern California without either court approval or her ex-husband's consent. McConnell in November ordered Brian placed in a foster home away from both parents.
Batey, accompanied by her parents and other well-wishers, was misty-eyed but smiling when she left the courtroom.
Her attorney, Michael Farris, said, "We're glad that the judge followed what we think the correct legal requirements were in giving credit for time served. I'm glad this is done."
James Walsh, Frank Batey's attorney, criticized the judge's actions, saying that Mrs. Batey stole the boy and escaped with virtually no punishment.
"She stole Brian and kept him from his father for a period of 18 months and nothing has happened to her," he said.
"She served 13 days in the Colorado jail, but that was because she refused to produce Brian as a condition of her bail. She's been brought back to California and she has suffered no consequences for her actions. Basically, she's been allowed to relish her actions with not even a slap on the hand.
"I think what everyone has looked to is Mr. Batey's homosexuality, and what they have ignored are his parenting skills. If Mr. Batey was not a homosexual, he would have custody of Brian."
Frank Batey has the flu and did not attend the sentencing.
Brian is still with the foster family.