BY LISA POST
Joseph Seckman, a subject of a nationwide law enforcement search in September, 2011, appeared in Tyler County Circuit Court on Thursday, July 19.
Joseph Seckman appeared in court on July 19 to answer charges against him stemming from a September, 2011 indicent.
Seckman and his wife, Jessica, were apprehended in Flagstaff, Ariz. in October following a routine traffic stop, and were extradited to Tyler County to face charges. The couple had fled the state while under investigation by Child Protective Services, taking Mrs. Seckman's daughter out of school and failing to inform the child's father of her whereabouts for over a month, in violation of a a custody agreement.
Jessica Seckman was sentenced in April of this year on one count of felony child concealment from a person entitled to visitation and received the maximum sentence for her crime. At her sentencing, Judge David W. Hummel, Jr., told Mrs. Seckman, "This was a reprehensible, selfish act on your part. I can't think of a greater nightmare than having a child taken away." Jessica Seckman was sentenced to not less than one nor more than five years in the WV Division of Corrections prison system.
Joseph Seckman withdrew his original plea of not guilty to the same one count felony concealment charge and through a plea agreement, entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of enticing a child from custody at Thursday's hearing.
Speaking for the state, Prosecutor D. Luke Furbee told the court, "I believe you know the factual basis of this case. Mr. Seckman is married to Jessica Seckman, who was under a court order involving her and the father of her child. After a complaint was made to DHHR, the Seckman's became uncooperative, and fled the state."
"An order was entered for a temporary transfer of custody by you, Judge Hummel, on the behalf of Judge Karl, at that time," added Furbee. "Although it was Mrs. Seckman's obligation to obey the court's order, Mr. Seckman did nothing to prevent the incident. The couple essentially absconded the area without notice to anyone."
"The state is mindful that he is now charged as an abettor, because he could not be part of the court's original order. He is not the child's father," explained Furbee.
Seckman's defense counsel Kevin Neiswonger told the court he had conferred with his client and told the judge the Seckman's didn't flee with the intent to interfere with custody arrangements. "The Seckman's left the state because they felt that CPS (Child Protective Services) had threatened to take the children, not necessarily to interrupt the custody agreement," said Neiswonger. "I don't think CPS would care to have its investigation characterized as a 'threat'," commented Judge Hummel.
"Their flight may have been prompted by the CPS case, but the result was the same as if there had been intent to deprive custodial rights," Judge Hummel added.
"Mr. Seckman, do you care to address the court?" the Judge queried.
Joseph Seckman spoke in his defense, saying, "In my opinion, the department (CPS) was treating us unfairly. Me and my wife made a terrible mistake, by leaving."
"Were you aware of the custody arrangement concerning your wife's daughter and the child's father?" asked Judge Hummel.
Seckman hesitated and replied, "I had no proof of any legal action that was taking place."
Seckman served nine months on home confinement following his extradition, as a condition of his bond prior to his plea in court.
Upon consideration of the evidence in the case, Judge Hummel accepted Seckman's plea of guilt to the misdemeanor charge and sentenced the offender to six months incarceration in North Central Regional Jail, sentence suspended, and placed Seckman on one year's supervised probation.
At the request of the state, Seckman was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,829.25 (for extradition costs) and fined $100.
"While I have no doubt that neither of them had any intention of coming back
with the children without having been made to come back, Jessica Seckman is
the more culpable party as a legal matter. They are her children, and it was her custody order to obey. Joseph Seckman was not a party to that order," commented Furbee at the conclusion of the hearing.
"He certainly did nothing to prevent what happened - and due to his complicity, he has been convicted and sentenced," added Furbee. "This plea was approved by the victims and we think that it is a good result in both cases. Justice has been served."