Carina Bieber, 28, has been formally charged with four felony counts of custody violation for allegedly hiding her children from their father and law enforcement for more than 10 months after a judge awarded primary custody of the children to the father.
Bieber appeared in court on Thursday.
Representing Bieber, Attorney John Moran argued the woman hid her children to protect them from what she believes is an abusive relative. A legal defense is available under law for those who act to protect the safety of children, Moran said.
I submit to the court that a crime has not been committed, he said. She acted for the safety of her children.
Moran asked for a reduction in bond, saying Bieber wanted to win custody of her children through legal means.
She wants to do this right, so she can stop looking over her shoulder, he said.
Prosecuting the case, District Attorney Russell Wasley argued Bieber was aware of a warrant out for her arrest and deliberately hid her children from law enforcement inside a hidden room located in the basement of a Montezuma County residence. Wasley argued against a bond reduction, saying the defendant might attempt to run from the law.
For someone that was a fugitive for 10 months, there is a substantial flight risk, he said.
Dozens of friends and family members of Bieber appeared in court. Several spoke on her behalf, saying she is a good mother and is not at risk for flight.
Montezuma County Judge JenniLynn Lawrence agreed Bieber was aware of the warrant because she filed a petition to quash it, which was denied. By not responding to the court order, Bieber violated the law, Lawrence said. She sided with the prosecution that Bieber was at a risk for running away with the children again, and kept the bond amount at $100,000. However, Lawrence switched the bond from cash-only to surety, which means Bieber might now be bonded out with through a bondsman by only putting down 15 to 20 percent of the bond.
The children have been returned to the custody of their father, Justin Bieber, who was awarded primary custody by Chief Judge Douglas Walker in a divorce case last year.
Family members said Carina Bieber has been unable to afford an attorney until criminal charges were filed and she was appointed a public defender. There are no state-funded attorneys available for custody proceedings, such as the Biebers divorce hearings last year.
The Montezuma County Sheriffs Office located Carina Bieber and her four children in the early hours of Sept. 29, ending a search that received national attention.
A search warrant was issued at a Montezuma County residence where Carina Bieber and her children were found in a hidden room in the basement, according to information from the sheriffs office.
The children appeared to be in good health, and an initial investigation indicates they have received home schooling, sheriffs office Lt. Ted Meador said the day the children were found.
The children were extremely excited to go outside, he said at the time. Were glad that it had a positive outcome.
The room they were found in was described as a space under stairs concealed by a panel and insulation. It appears Bieber and the children were living in the house for several months and using the room to hide when law enforcement visited, Meador said.
They were found in one of two county residences searched.
Bieber allegedly did not have legal custody of her children when the five went missing last year. The case was reported to the sheriffs office Dec. 29.
The father, Justin Bieber, told police he had not seen three of his children since October 2010 and his youngest child, then 2 years old, since January 2010. The children are all less than 11 years old.
Since then, the case has aired on the national Find Our Children series on Tru-TV and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website.
The U.S. Marshals Service assisted in the search. Wasley acknowledged that the suspect has no prior criminal history.
Carina Bieber is being held in the Montezuma County Detention Center. If convicted, she could face time in prison.
Lawrence also placed a protection order on Carina Bieber, prohibiting her from contacting her children.
Her next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 12.
Reach Reid Wright at email@example.com.