Mother jailed two months for child abduction

Woman who fled Canada with her infant son after losing custody fight 16 years ago jailed for two months.

A woman who fled Canada with her infant son after losing a custody fight 16 years ago was sentenced Wednesday to two months in jail for child abduction.

Gisele Marie Goudreault, 46, was convicted last month of taking her son Orey to Mexico and then to California after his father was granted sole custody of the boy.

"Clearly this crime must be denounced," assistant chief Judge David Plosz said in provincial court. "She created this sad affair by fleeing to not one, but two, foreign countries." 

The charge carries a maximum punishment of a $2,000 fine or six months in jail.

At the trial, court heard that Goudreault, who was unmarried, kept Orey's birth secret for several months before his father, Rod Steinmann, discovered he had a son.

When a judge ruled Steinmann had stronger family ties in central Alberta and granted him custody of the boy, Goudreault fled the country rather than hand him over.

The case made headlines last February when Goudreault was arrested in her Los Angeles-area home in front of her son. She was held in a U.S. jail for four months before being extradited to Canada.

A member of the Missing Children Society of Canada said at the time that Orey, who is now 18, was playing on a school computer in 2003 when he discovered on an internet site that he had been abducted.

However, Goudreault's lawyer, Markham Silver, has refuted that report, saying she told her son when he was nine years old about his father.

During sentencing arguments, both the Crown and defence cautioned that a severe sentence could make it difficult for Goudreault to return to California to be with her son because of U.S. immigration rules.

Orey, who has applied for U.S. citizenship, graduated from high school last June and now attends college. While he has kept in touch with his mother, the two haven't seen each other since her extradition.

Silver said he has filed appeals of both Goudreault's conviction and sentence. The motions are to be heard June 6.

The lawyer said Goudreault is obviously disappointed with the sentence and the whole case is a sad one.

"The Steinmann family has a son they are not acquainted with. The son doesn't have a father figure, and his mother is now incarcerated many miles away from where he is," Silver said.