Appeals court: Mom in standoff should keep charges

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The Michigan Court of Appeals is upholding criminal charges brought against a Detroit mother who engaged in 2011 in a lengthy standoff with police officers looking to remove her 13-year-old special-needs daughter from her care.

In a ruling released Friday, the state appeals court has reversed a dismissal in the case against Maryanne Godboldo and has remanded the matter back to the district court, prosecutors said.

The court found the order to take Godboldo’s child was valid and sufficient evidence supported the charges and the 36th District Court judge erred in refusing to grant a bindover on all the charges, said Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

No new date has been scheduled in 36th District Court at this time.

Godboldo’s attorney, Byron Pitts, said he spoke to Godboldo Friday and she wants to continue to fight the charges.

“We will continue to fight this. We are extremely disappointed. We have been upheld twice already. I have not read the ruling yet, but we may appeal to the (Michigan) Supreme Court,” Pitts said.

In 2014, 36th District Judge Ronald Giles dismissed criminal charges against Godboldo. Wayne County Circuit Judge Gregory Bill also refused to reinstate criminal charges against Godboldo.

In the appeal court’s ruling, the court said no one disputes that evidence showed Godboldo assaulted or obstructed the police and that prosecutors supplied “abundant” evidence to support a charge of felonious assault. It also said prosecutors presented evidence to support a finding of probable cause that Godboldo intentionally fired a gun in an occupied structure toward officers.

However, the district court abused its discretion in finding that Godboldo had a common-law right to resist unlawful police conduct with reasonable force, the ruling said.

Godboldo's case has become symbolic of a parent's right not to medicate a child.

Godboldo had been charged with firing a weapon as police with a court order, requested by social workers, tried to enter her west side Detroit home in March 2011 to take the child into custody because Godboldo refused to give her Risperdal, a controversial anti-psychotic prescription drug.

Then-assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Laura Weingarten argued in court in 2014 that Godboldo saw the squad cars and police officers who arrived at her home.

"She knew why they were there," Weingarten said. "There is no evidence the defendant believed this was a home invasion."

Godboldo was charged with illegally resisting and assaulting police for allegedly firing a weapon at them during the 10-hour standoff.

Giles had ruled in 2014 that Godboldo did not use deadly force when she fired into the ceiling when police tried to enter the house. He said state law allows deadly force when an individual feels they are facing death.

Pitts has said Godboldo didn't want her daughter taking the medication because it made the child aggressive and angry. He said the mother also fears that the medication is deadly.