Saturday, August 26, 2000

Supporters to hold vigil for Justin


Family gets new lawyer for future court cases

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Spurred by this week's Ohio Supreme Court ruling, supporters of the Girard, Ohio, couple involved in an interstate custody battle over 3-year-old Justin will hold a candlelight prayer vigil here tonight.

justin
Justin
        On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the fight over custody of Justin should be decided in Kentucky — not Ohio. Rich and Cheryl Asente, the adoptive parents, were not able to present oral arguments about a best-interest hearing because attorney Charles Milles of Columbus missed a filing deadline by a minute.

        The couple, in Covington for the 8:30 p.m. vigil tonight and for Justin's court-ordered visitation, don't anticipate Mr. Milles will handle any future actions, Mr. Asente said Friday evening.

        The Ohio decision gives a Kentucky appellate court sole authority to decide whether Justin should stay with his brother and the Asentes in Girard or go back to his birth parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Florence, with whom Justin is staying until Sunday.

        Tonight's vigil will be at 8:30 p.m. in front of the clock tower in Goebel Park, located in Covington's MainStrasse neighborhood.

        “In our prayers, we're going to ask for some wisdom and compassion from the people who are making decisions about Justin's life,” said Victoria Nymberg, who described herself as a concerned mother from Mason, Ohio.

        The court battle over Justin began more than two years ago, when the Asentes tried to adopt the boy, as they had his 4-year-old biological brother, Joey. However, Ms. Moore and Mr. Dorning changed their minds during the adoption process, and sued to get Justin back.

        Wednesday's Ohio ruling was seen as a victory for Justin's unmarried birth parents, who had fought to have the case decided by the Kentucky court system.

        Neither the birth parents nor Ms. Moore's lawyer, Richard Cullison, could be reached for comment Friday.

        Among those expected to join the Asentes at tonight's vigil are members of Hear My Voice, a national coalition of volunteer child advocates and professionals.

        “We still feel there's hope that the appeals court will take a look at this, and that the outcome will be positive for little Justin,” Mrs. Nymberg said.

        Mr. Asente, 37, a retail manager at Staples, said that the family had arrived in Covington Friday evening.

        They make the 300-mile trip from near Youngstown, Ohio, sometimes three weekends a month in their newly purchased minivan, Mr. Asente said.

        They stay with supporters in town so they don't have to get a hotel room. This weekend they are staying with Covington publishing firm employee Ann Abbott, who organized the vigil.

        “We're going to be praying for all the justices and for wisdom in their decision and that they'll take Justin's best interest into account,” Mr. Asente said.

        He said that he and his wife have received as much financial support from the Greater Cincinnati area as they have from the Youngstown area where they live.

        About $330,000 in legal fees have been billed and the family has paid $100,000 of that, raised “through fund raising, depleting 401(k)s and IRAs and borrowing from our family and friends,” Mr. Asente said.

        Attorney Susan Eisenman of Columbus and the firm of Goldberg & Simson of Louisville will handle future court cases, Mr. Asente said, refusing to comment on whether the family had fired Mr. Milles. Mr. Asente says that no amount is too much for Justin. “I could never put a price on what would be too much to fight for my chil dren — to fight for what I think is right for them.”

        Justin's biological brother, Joey, is here for the weekend also. The Asentes try to shield him from the legal proceedings.

        “Joey knows that Justin used to live with Gina and Jerry and that Mommy and Daddy think that Justin should visit less and that Gina and Jerry think that he should visit more,” Mr. Asente said.

        He said that he's not surprised the case has received so much support from Kentuckians.

        “I don't think that people really view this as Ohio versus Kentucky, I think they see it as a little boy that is going to have his life disintegrated and they think it's wrong.”

        Mr. Asente said the stability of the boy's life in Ohio and his closeness with his brother were just some of the things in his best interest.

        As Justin got out of the minivan for this weekend's visit, Mr. Asente said, he told him, “Daddy, don't let me down.”

       Enquirer staffer Kakie Urch contributed.
       

       



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