Jury awards father $3 million

Millersville man's children were taken to Egypt illegally by their mother in 2001

December 15, 2006|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,SUN REPORTER

A jury awarded more than $3 million in damages yesterday to a Millersville man whose sons were taken to Egypt by their mother five years ago and are being kept from him illegally.

Michael Shannon has not seen his boys, Adam, 9, and Jason, 5, since Aug. 18, 2001. He has been fighting his former wife, Nermeen Khalifa Shannon, and her mother, Afaf N. Khalifa, in court ever since. It is believed that the children remain in Egypt.

For two years, Shannon's attorneys, Stephen J. Cullen and Edward Brady, have been arguing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that the Khalifa family is civilly liable for interfering with Shannon's custodial rights by abducting the children.

Cullen said he is hopeful that Shannon will be able to collect the money awarded to him, because the Khalifa family owns property in the United States. But the suit was not about the money, he said.

"Michael Shannon has never ever stopped doing whatever he can do to bring pressure to bear to get his children back," Cullen said. The fact that the case has been successful, he said, is "a message for people who want to run off with children from Maryland."

In the complaint, lawyers argue that Shannon "suffered severe economic and emotional injury, including the expense of trying to have his children returned, international travel costs, investigation services, attorneys' fees and other compensatory damages."

The jury deliberated for two hours before siding with his client, Cullen said.

The jurors - four women and two men - awarded Shannon $17,500 in attorneys' fees and $500,000 each in compensatory damages from Khalifa and Nermeen Khalifa Shannon. The jury also ordered each woman to pay Shannon about $1 million in punitive damages.

William C. Brennan Jr., the attorney representing the mother and daughter, said he had asked for a mistrial in the case.

Brennan said his clients plan to appeal the judgment but declined to comment further on the case.

The Shannons married in 1996 and separated in January, 2000, according to court documents.

In 2001, Shannon was granted custody of Adam, and Nermeen Khalifa Shannon was granted custody of Jason. Each parent had visitation rights with the other child.

Shannon has alleged that when both boys were visiting their mother, she and her mother had made previous arrangements to fly the children to Egypt. Shannon has since been granted custody of both boys, though he has not seen them.

Afaf Khalifa was convicted in 2003 of 10 counts of helping her daughter take Adam to Egypt, and she served a three-year prison sentence before being deported from the United States.

There is an outstanding felony warrant for Nermeen Khalifa Shannon, which Anne Arundel County prosecutors have said they will honor if she returns to the United States.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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