Saturday, October 13, 2007

Katelyn Lexus: An american family tragedy

Not long ago, Nicholas and Lola Kampf looked like a couple who had it all.
A million-dollar house in North Yarmouth. A thriving real estate business. The luxuries of trips around the world and private school education for their two children.

Then came shocking charges last September, when their 19- year-old daughter, Katelyn, told police her parents tied her up and drove her south in the family Lexus, in an attempt to force her into an abortion she didn't want.

On Friday, the couple's legal ordeal ended when they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and disorderly conduct. Their family problems, however, were far from resolved.

"This is an American family tragedy," Lola Kampf told Superior Court Justice William Brodrick. "These events have ripped our family apart."

Nicholas and Lola Kampf sat at a defendants' table in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland, clutching hands. Their daughter, who is now 20, sat on a bench about 15 feet behind them, holding her 8-month-old son. The parents did not look back, and Katelyn Kampf did not glance over when she told a judge he was letting them off easy.

"I'm really unhappy with the plea agreement. I know that they did kidnap me," she told Brodrick. "I do think they should face felony charges."

In the end, Brodrick accepted a plea deal that spared the parents from jail time. Instead, they will undergo psychological evaluations and counseling.

The Kampf family's legal saga began at their North Yarmouth home on Sept. 15, 2006.

Katelyn Kampf told police her parents wanted to take her to New York, where abortions are allowed until 24 weeks into the pregnancy. The procedure is allowed in Maine only until the 20th week, which she had already passed.

Nicholas and Lola Kampf say there was an argument and a fight. They said they bound their daughter's hands and untied her in the Lexus. They told investigators that they knew an abortion would not be provided without Katelyn's consent, and they were hoping during the car ride to convince her that that was the best choice for her future.

The parents were indicted last fall on charges of kidnapping, assault and terrorizing. Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson eventually sought lesser charges through a plea deal, based on a judge's recommendation and the fact that Katelyn Kampf said she wanted to avoid a trial and did not want her parents to go to jail.

Anderson said she just learned in the past few days that Katelyn Kampf had changed her mind about the plea deal.

For most of Friday's hearing, Katelyn Kampf held her son, D'Andre, and fed him from a bottle at one point. Her parents apparently had never seen the child whose impending birth sparked the events of last September, as well as the claims and counterclaims that followed.

"This is one of the most unusual and bizarre cases I've ever encountered in over 20 years of doing this," said Anderson, the district attorney.

Anderson said Katelyn Kampf had dropped out of George Washington University and had become pregnant by her boyfriend, Reme Johnson. On Sept. 15, Katelyn decided she wanted to keep the baby, but her parents still wanted her to undergo an abortion. That led to the confrontation and car ride heading south.

When Katelyn Kampf and her father went into a department store in Salem, N.H., to buy a cell phone, Anderson said, Katelyn walked into a Staples store and called police.

Anderson dismissed claims that the ordeal was racially motivated. Kampf is white, and Johnson, the father of her baby, is black. Statements to investigators by Johnson and Katelyn Kampf did not support any theory of racial motivation, Anderson said.

"In my conversations with Katelyn, she had the feeling they didn't like Reme Johnson but they had never said anything overt about his race," she said.

The animosity was based on Johnson's criminal record, his lack of employment and

the fact that he was living with Katelyn Kampf without her parents' knowledge, Anderson said.

In her statement to Brodrick on Friday, Katelyn Kampf disagreed.

She said that when police interviewed her and her brother, Daniel, they asked if her parents were racist. "We did say 'yes,'" Kampf said. "Part of the reasons these things happened was because he was black."

Seth Berner, Katelyn Kampf's lawyer, contended outside court that the events constitute a hate crime. He said he will try to get the state Attorney General's Office or the U.S. attorney to review the facts.

"The outcome of this case is absolutely horrendous," said Berner, co-chairman of the legal redress committee for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Portland Branch. "It says what they did was no worse than stealing a bottle of wine."

But Anderson said every step was taken to make sure that Katelyn Kampf was part of the plea negotiations. The district attorney said she signed off on the plan at a Sept. 17 meeting.

During Friday's hearing, Berner tried to speak on Katelyn Kampf's behalf but was quieted by Brodrick, who said Berner had no legal right to speak.

"Any differences you have with Ms. Anderson can be handled elsewhere," Brodrick said to Berner. "You're on the record. Now you can proceed to your seat."

Brodrick said the assault and disorderly conduct charges, if they did not involve a "bizarre" family dynamic, would likely have been punished by a short jail sentence, probation and a fine. But he agreed that jail time would not be appropriate.

The Kampfs, who now reside in Florida, must undergo psychological evaluations and counseling and must pay for $5,000 worth of counseling for their daughter. They are not allowed to have contact with Katelyn Kampf, unless she decides to sit in on their counseling sessions.

If the Kampfs meet all the conditions, the assault charges against them will be dropped in 2009, but the disorderly conduct convictions will remain on their records.

Hope for reconciliation is another matter. Both parents said Friday that they want to mend the torn relationship.

"We have all made some bad choices in the past and we will have to live with them, but we must believe with our hearts and soul that time will heal the wounds they have caused," Lola Kampf said.

Immediately after the hearing, in a hallway, Katelyn Kampf cast doubt on that hope.

"They will never be involved in my life. Ever," she said.

What a tragedy that parents can do this to their daughter and grandchild -even if not racially motivated - and not spend many years in jail.

This young woman was kidnapped and assaulted in order to procure an abortion. If this had happened to a woman seeking an abortion with parents protesting that the prochoice movement would have made vast public commentary. This woman because she chose to give birth to her child has not prompted a word from that community.


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