WSVN — Like courts across the country, South Florida is dealing with followers of the sovereign citizen movement, a group that challenges conventional laws. Now, a sovereign mother is claiming in a custody case, her 2-year-old daughter is her "private property." Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
When Iloni Tarver was born, her father Jervon was right there. Even though he and mom Melanie Moffett aren’t married, they share custody.
Jervon Tarver: "I have not seen or spoken or heard about the whereabouts of my daughter since February 8th of this year."
Tarver says he hasn’t seen his daughter for months.
Jervon Tarver: "And I know my baby’s been asking for me."
Tarver went to court and got this order for authorities to pick up Iloni and bring her to him, but no one could find her. Tarver says all the mother’s known addresses turned out to be dead ends.
Jervon Tarver: "I just want my child home. It’s like, I shouldn’t have to go through all of this just to be a father."
And he is worried because he says Moffett has now adopted sovereign citizen beliefs. The general magistrate handling the case also expressed concern. She wrote: "The court shares the father’s concerns about the toddler’s well-being."
Jervon Tarver: "From what they send in court documents, that she’s gotten rid of all her rights and has become a sovereign."
Followers of the sovereign citizen movement challenge existing laws. Moffett has filed several court documents, including one in which she declares she is a "Foreign Nation," and threatens damages of $56 million.
Another shows her return address as the "Sacred Lotus Dynasty." When she appeared in court for this case, she didn’t want to be called Melanie Moffett.
Melanie Moffett: "I would like to be addressed in my proper status which is Nneka Ali El."
Moffett was in court to explain why she has kept the child from the father. She said the little girl is her property.
Melanie Moffett: "But I have my right to private property and I don’t want…"
Magistrate Annette Szorosy: "Can you give me any, any basis where there’s any private property that I’m talking about?"
Melanie Moffett: "My child."
Magistrate Annette Szorosy: "OK, your child is not private property ma’am."
And with that, Moffett was ordered to have the toddler brought to Tarver immediately, or be held in contempt.
Magistrate Annette Szorosy: "And neither of you have any more right to the child than the other."
Moffett never said where the child was staying, but had a friend bring her to the front of the Broward County Courthouse. After months of anguish, Tarver’s daughter was back in his arms.
Carmel Cafiero: "How does she feel?"
Jervon Tarver: "She feels great. I get to hold her again."
But it’s not over for the toddler and her fractured family. Both parents plan to challenge the other’s ability to take care of her. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.
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