Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa mom accused of kidnapping children showed signs of abuse, lawyer says

TAMPA — New court documents filed in the case of Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, the Tampa couple charged with kidnapping their children and fleeing to Cuba, indicate Sharyn Hakken showed signs of physical abuse when encountered by Louisiana police officers last year.

The Louisiana incident — which led to drug charges against Joshua Hakken and set off a chain of bizarre events culminating in the alleged abduction of the couple's two boys — began when police were called to a hotel outside New Orleans. Sharyn Hakken was running down a hallway, screaming and knocking on doors, police said.

The Hakkens and their attorneys mostly have been silent about that night last summer, citing in part Sharyn Hakken's assertion that she lost consciousness and did not recall interacting with police. The picture of the Hakkens that has emerged for public consumption is of a couple united by their interest in antigovernment conspiracy theories and anger at their loss of parental rights.

But in a motion filed Thursday in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Sharyn Hakken's attorney, Bryant Camareno of Tampa, states there were "injuries found on Sharyn Hakken" and that she underwent "involuntary commitment" for mental instability even as her husband was arrested. The motion asks prosecutors to turn over medical records and photographs of her injuries from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.

At the time of her commitment, Sharyn Hakken was with her husband and two sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase. In an interview Friday, Camareno said the "injuries" referred to in his motion were "bruising on her body and two black eyes."

He declined to comment on whether Sharyn Hakken, 34, had been abused by her husband, who is 35. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are barred from discussing evidence they have reviewed in the case until Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe approves its release.

Camareno took pains to note that he and Joshua Hakken's attorney, Jorge Chalela, are still cooperating on the case. But he pointed out that suggestions of domestic violence could change the legal terrain for Sharyn Hakken, if not for her husband.

Speaking hypothetically, Camareno said, "If … those injuries were the result of a domestic scenario, why is she being punished for that?"

The Slidell Police Department, which took the Hakkens into custody last year, did not return calls for comment. In previous statements, Slidell police have said Joshua Hakken was charged with marijuana possession and related charges but did not mention domestic violence.

The Hills­borough County Sheriff's Office declined to comment, citing the pending criminal case.

Clearwater criminal defense lawyer Douglas deVlaming said compelling evidence that Sharyn Hakken was abused by her husband could bolster a "defense of duress" — the common-law concept that those forced into criminal acts should not always be prosecuted. Such a defense would probably be more successful, deVlaming said, if Sharyn Hakken agrees to cooperate with prosecutors and point the finger at her husband.

"A lot is going to depend on whether or not she is going to cooperate with authorities," deVlaming said. "They may look at it and say, 'We understand she wasn't the impetus behind this.' "

The Hakkens are each charged with felonies including kidnapping and child abuse. In April they kidnapped their children, who were staying with Sharyn Hakken's mother, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The family then boarded a sailboat in Madeira Beach and fled to Cuba, the Sheriff's Office said.

After being apprehended near Havana, the Hakkens were flown back to Florida and arrested. They are now being held at the Falkenburg Road Jail, awaiting trial. Cole and Chase were sent to live with their grandparents.

At the time of the Cuba trip, a Louisiana court had just terminated the Hakkens' parental rights. The decision stemmed from the hotel incident in June 2012, and from another episode two weeks later, when Joshua Hakken showed up with a gun at a Louisiana foster home demanding that his boys be returned.

The Hakkens are home-schooling enthusiasts whose leeriness of government extends to vaccinations and even the exhaust trails of airplanes, according to their attorneys. (The latter fear of so-called "chemtrails" secretly spread from the skies by government agents is popular among some tea party activists.)

Their attorneys have said they were seeking "asylum" in Cuba because they feared they and their sons were in danger from U.S. government officials.

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.

Comments

High school scoreboard for Feb. 23

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 2, Crystal River 0BaseballCalvary Christian 9, Countryside 2Northeast 15, Tarpon Springs 1
Updated: 4 hours ago
Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

TALLAHASSEE — A bombshell that South Florida police ignored tips that a teenager was planning an assault on a school and then failed to stop him when he attacked seems destined to complicate the election-year discussion around mass shootings.Even in ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

WASHINGTON — A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, three people fami...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — Arthur D. Showley, 75, went fishing early Friday morning, something he did two or three times a week, friends said. When they saw his car and trailer still parked near a community boat ramp at 2 p.m., they thought that was strange."He never ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature have rolled out their ideas for change in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But would these measures have made a difference in the worst mass...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

TAMPA — A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s an...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

This is the sad new math in the age of school slaughter.If one student comes to school with a firearm and 10 ammunition magazines filled with 30 bullets each, and another comes with a firearm and 30 magazines filled with 10 bullets each, who can crea...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

TAMPA — Friends and family have a saying about Lee Thornton Davis Jr. Once you met him, even for just a moment, you knew him forever."He was the most outgoing person I’d ever met," Dick Greco said, which is something coming from Tampa’s gregarious, 8...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Updated: 10 hours ago
She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

PARKLAND — She was afraid of what it would feel like, but she needed to know, so Melissa Falkowski pulled into the faculty parking lot. She took a deep breath in through her nose and climbed out of her car. She was back, in front of Marjory Stoneman ...
Updated: 10 hours ago