Against all odds, Eva wins in both courts
When Eva Ruiz Gomez answered her phone on Sept 28, 2010, she was in for some very bad surprises. The first was that someone from the DA’s office had taken her 12-year-old son from middle school and left nothing but a business card and phone number.
The next surprise came when—after Eva rushed from Big Sur to the DA’s office in Salinas—the DA’s investigator tried to interrogate her and then, despite that she was nursing her sick infant daughter, placed her under arrest. At that point Eva began having seizures; paramedics were called, she was handcuffed to a gurney, taken to the emergency room and then handcuffed to a hospital bed. Next stop was county jail and the biggest surprise of all: she was being charged with felony kidnapping of her own son. The last thing she knew, she had full legal custody!
What changed? How did this come about?
In 2002 the Monterey County Family Court gave Eva full custody of her son and permission to move to Mexico with him, and in 2003 Eva returned to court and explained her family’s delay in leaving for Mexico. Interim visitation was set up between Eva’s son and his biological father, Ramon Munoz, pending Eva’s move with her son.
On Aug 12, 2004, Munoz appeared in court asking for a change of custody. Eva was not at that hearing, because she was never served notice and had no knowledge it was even taking place. Judge Kay Kingsley, according to the official court transcript of the hearing, said, “Is Eva Gomez present? No?” and then changed the custody order. Even though the court had given Eva permission to move to Mexico with her son, and even though Munoz’s own declaration to the court affirmed that Eva was living in Mexico, Judge Kingsley issued a joint custody order and weekly visitations in Seaside, CA!
Within weeks, Muñoz went to the Monterey County District Attorney and asked to open a child abduction case against her. It was the court order issued on Aug 12, 2004—without Eva’s knowledge and obtained under fraud—that was the basis for the felony charges against her and 2&1/2 years of relentless prosecution by the DA’s office.
For four years, Eva Ruiz Gomez has lived and breathed a grinding, uphill battle against two court systems: to prove herself innocent of felony kidnapping charges in Criminal Court and to regain full custody of her son from Family Court.
In these times, when anyone accused of a crime is heavily pressured to plea bargain (even if they are innocent), Eva is among the rare who refuse. Her ethics prevented her from pleading guilty when she was not.
After more than 75 criminal hearings in Salinas (but never a trial), on January 25, 2013, Eva finally walked out of court a free woman. Superior Court Judge Larry Hayes dropped all charges against her and dismissed the case. Immediately afterwards, in the hallway outside the courtroom, Eva told the press that next step was regaining what had been taken from her: sole custody of her son.
Now, four years after her arrest, Eva—correctly and ethically using the research done by a pro-bono lawyer in 2012—drafted a motion of her own, asking the court to rule that fraudulent 2004 order null and void. On Sept 4, 2014, that victory was hers! That Eva was able to do this—without a lawyer representing her—is nothing short of a miracle. It was possible only because of her tremendous perseverance and intelligence and the support of her community.
However Eva’s victory has come at a very high cost. She has given every ounce of herself for four years—to prove her innocence and to protect her son. She fought her battle in two courts at the same time, and the deck was stacked against her. It was against all odds that she would prevail.