By Guy Ashley © 2000 Marin Independent Journal 7/22/00

A Novato woman was convicted yesterday of attempted child abduction, perjury and contempt of court for using a falsified court order to try to take custody of her daughter, whom she had been barred from contacting by a Sonoma County court.

Carol Mardeusz, 44, was convicted of five felonies and two misdemeanors by a jury that took less than a day to deliberate her fate. Her three-week trial was marked by some outlandish courtroom behavior, including an outburst by a defense attorney who cried "whore" at both the judge and prosecutor.

An attorney for Mardeusz said she would move for a retrial, and appeal the verdicts to another court.

Attorney Nedra Ruiz soundly criticized the judge, Verna Adams, for shackling the defense by barring evidence relevant to the case.

"She decided many issues in error," Ruiz said. "Her errors gutted our case and allowed the jury to find reasons to convict when there really were none."

According to Ruiz, the jury was prevented from hearing the question that any person curious about the case would want to know: Why was Mardeusz barred from seeing her own child? On this issue, Adams sided with the prosecutor, Kelly Vieira of the Marin District Attorney's Office, who said the reasons custody was granted to the girl's father were decided long ago in Sonoma County, and that questions about custody were irrelevant to the Marin case.

Vieira told the jury of 11 women and one man that the trial was about Mardeusz' deliberate attempt to circumvent the Sonoma County ruling by misleading a Marin judge into signing a temporary order that contradicted his colleague in Sonoma.

Marin Superior Court Judge Michael Dufficy testified that he signed the temporary order because Mardeusz led him to believe she had been granted custody in Sonoma. Dufficy said he rescinded the order a day later when he learned the defendant's claims were not true and that custody of the girl had been granted to the father after a court battle that included accusations of drug use and child abuse.

Juror Marisa Garcia of Novato said she had a difficult time voting for the convictions, but felt it was the only option based on the law and the information the jury was provided.

"In my heart, I don't think she thought what she did was wrong," Garcia, a single mother, said of Mardeusz. "The law was carried out, but I'm not so sure the law is just."

Mardeusz could face prison time when she is sentenced next month. After the verdicts were read, Vieira told the judge she was inclined to ask that Mardeusz be taken into custody, but decided to wait until sentencing.

Ruiz said she does not think Mardeusz will be sent to prison, but county jail instead. "I have a feeling the DA will seek jail time because of the political animus directed at my client because of the recall movement," Ruiz said.

The Mardeusz case is cited on petitions now circulating in Marin that seek support for a special election next spring to recall District Attorney Paula Kamena and Superior Court Judge Terrence Boren. Both officials are accused of mishandling the case.

Mardeusz said she is not afraid of going to jail. "Nothing could be worse than them taking away my daughter," she said. "I would rather be in jail than in Verna Adams' courtroom."

Peter Romanowsky, a divorced father of three who is leading the campaign to recall Kamena, Boren and two other judges, said he believes the verdicts will bolster the movement to sweep the four court officials from office.

"Everything we've been saying will now be amplified by a factor of 10,'' Romanowsky said.

Patricia Barry, who defended Mardeusz along with Ruiz, was noticeably absent from yesterday's proceedings. She created a stir Tuesday with an outburst that included her "whore'' comments. The eruption earned her a $1,000 fine and a short stay in a courthouse holding cell.

Adams had ordered Barry to be present yesterday for a ruling on possible further sanctions. Clearly miffed, Adams said she would take up the issue on Monday, and again ordered Barry to be present.

Contact Guy Ashley via e-mail at