Terrorists & Grandparent Custody Rights

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Grandparent Rights on Thursday, May 21, 2015.

Zachary Chesser threatened “South Park” creators for insulting Muhammad. Then he tried going to Somalia to join Al-Shabab. He brought his son to the airport to avoid suspicion. Does he, or the grandmother, have custody rights?

Zach’s plan didn’t work by the way. He was stopped at the airport. He was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison for attempting to support terrorists. He also pleaded guilty to threatening violence online.

Zach now lives in the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. His wife, a Ugandan diplomat’s daughter named Proscovia Nzabanita, had to leave the United States after pleading guilty to lying about Zach’s plans.

This case raises grandparent custody rights because the fate of Zach’s 5-year old son Talhah is the center of a dispute being heard in a federal appellate court this week.

Zach is suing, Barbara Chesser, his own mother and a lawyer in the Office of the Attorney General, and her partner, and the FBI for money damages over how she learned of his plot to flee the U.S. with Talhah.

He alleges that FBI agents interfered with his parental rights by conspiring with his mother and her partner to ensure that Talhah could not travel to Jordan to live with his wife.

Talhah is being raised by his grandmother in the U.S. The grandmother filed for custody while her son Zach was behind bars waiting trial, and the mother, Nzabanita, was facing deportation. I’ve written about grandparent visitation before.

The Judge dismissed Zach’s lawsuit because there is no expectation of privacy for prison conversations, and no reason to object when the FBI disclosed the conversation to his grandmother. Zach appealed.

Virginia, where the custody case arose, allows grandparents to win custody over parents in certain circumstances. In contrast, grandparent rights to visit their grandchildren over the objections of fit parents do not exist in Florida.

But, Zach’s case is special given that a judge declared Zach and his wife unfit. If this case arose in Florida, there is a good chance that the grandmother could request some form of custodial rights.

Some facts about Zach may make any judge question his fitness. He allegedly converted to Islam after becoming infatuated with a girl. His father said Zach began wearing loin cloth in place of underwear. He threatened to kill South Park creators over a cartoon, involved his son in his attempt to join al Shabab – a group responsible for killing 148 students in Kenya.

On those facts, with no natural parents available to raise Talhah, even Florida would find some form of custodial rights available to the grandmother.

The Fox News report on the case is here.