NEW YORK -- Testimony began yesterday in family court in Queens in the custody trial of an Arizona couple who are accused of beating their newly adopted children on a flight from Moscow to New York City in May.
A detective and a caseworker for the city testified that the parents had told them they had struck the children, but said they were disciplining them after the children had become hysterical during the 10-hour flight May 28.
Before the trial began, lawyers for the parents, Richard and Karen Thorne, tried to reach a deal with city officials that would have let them return to Arizona with the children under supervision.
Cheryl Solomon, a lawyer for the Thornes, said, "They will jump through as many flaming hoops as they have to jump through" to be reunited with the children.
The two 4-year-old girls have been in foster care since the plane landed at Kennedy International Airport and the Thornes were arrested and charged with assault, harassment and endangering the welfare of the children. The Thornes face a separate criminal trial on the charges. The parents were released on bail and have visited the children four times under supervision.
But after six hours of negotiations between officials from the city's Administration for Children's Services and lawyers for the Thornes, no deal was reached.
The city intends to call eight witnesses at the custody hearing, including the pilot of the Delta plane and a flight attendant, who have said the Thornes were abusive to the children, officials said.
Defense lawyers say that three other passengers on the plane have come forward in defense of the Thornes, and that a fourth passenger signed an affidavit that the Thornes had done their best with an out-of-control situation.
Testifying for the city yesterday were John Trotter, the Port Authority detective who arrested the Thornes, and a caseworker for the Administration for Children's Services who has interviewed a number of people involved in the incident.
Trotter said that an unspecified number of passengers on the plane willingly missed their connecting flights because they wanted to make sure the Thornes were arrested.
Pub Date: 7/03/97