Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=156947
Story Retrieval Date: 2/16/2010 7:22:27 PM CST
Man faces criminal trial for taking daughter to church
by Maggie Hyde
Feb 16, 2010
A Chicago man accused of violating the terms of a restraining order by taking his daughter to a Catholic Church service pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal contempt during an arraignment Tuesday.
After the hearing before Cook County Associate Judge Elizabeth Loredo Rivera, Joseph Reyes insisted that he did nothing wrong and said the order was unfair. In a news release he said the restraining order violated his constitutional right guaranteeing freedom of religion
The order, issued on Dec. 11, bars Reyes from exposing his young daughter Ela Reyes “to any other religion other than the Jewish religion.”
Reyes’ lawyer, Joel Brodsky, said the case is a matter of personal freedom. Brodsky, who is also representing murder suspect Drew Peterson, said that to enforce the order, a judge would have to define what is Jewish and what is Catholic.
“He has a right to take his child with him to his religious practices,” Brodsky said after the hearing. “I don’t think, in this country, a judge has the right to say what is Jewish and what is not.”
The restraining order was entered by Cook County Circuit Judge Edward Jordan, who is presiding over the divorce proceedings between Reyes and his wife, Rebecca Reyes. But prior to Tuesday’s arraignment, Reyes requested a new judge.
Jordan, a former president of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, a Jewish Bar Association, removed himself from the contempt case. “There is no question in my mind that Mr. Reyes can receive justice at any other’s hand,” Jordan said, despite requests by the prosecution that Jordan remain on the case and enforce his order.
Reyes said outside of court that because the judge entered the restraining order, “he would have a point in enforcing the order…I think the judge exercised a poor amount of discretion [in issuing the order].”
Reyes took the couple's 3-year-old daughter, Ela, to a Catholic mass on Jan. 17, according to the charges contained in the court file.
Rebecca Reyes did not appear in court Tuesday. Her lawyer, Laura Ashmore, said that her client had confidence in the judicial system.
“She wants to try her case in court and not in the media,” she said.
Because the charge carries only a maximum of six months in jail or a $500 fine, Reyes is not entitled to a jury trial.
Joseph Reyes started a Web site to raise money for the legal costs of the trial.
Brodsky said that so far, the amount of money donated had been “in the hundreds, not very much.”
Rebecca Reyes is the daughter of Howard Schapiro, the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Playboy Enterprises Inc.
Reyes, who is now a student at John Marshall Law School, completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2004. He said he and his estranged wife did not follow many Jewish traditions during their marriage.
“We maybe went to synagogue a handful of times,” he said.
Howard LeVine, who has been practicing family law for 40 years, said that although temporary restraining orders are common in divorce and custody battles " particularly in the context of finances - religious disputes between parents are fairly rare.
“Normally, parties make an agreement,” he said.
He said the religious practices of the parent with custody of the child usually takes precedence.
“If he doesn’t have custody, and she does, then she has the final say on the religion of the child,” LeVine said.
Rebecca Reyes currently has custody of the child. According to Brodsky, Joseph Reyes is allowed “full and liberal” visitation.
A status hearing for the trial will be held March 3.