Dad defends kidnapping
in Florida court

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A man accused of leaving Florida with his daughter and hiding out in Hawaii for five years was denied bond after he pleaded innocent in a court hearing.

Jon Michael Bryan was ordered Monday to remain in jail pending a plea agreement or a trial despite testimony that his ex-wife had previously tried to take the child to live in Germany.

Bryan is charged with concealing a child against a court order, a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years. But federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution have been dropped.

Under sentencing guidelines for the remaining charge, Bryan would get up to one year in jail, but the judge can raise or lower the sentence.

Bryan said he was afraid his ex-wife, Elke Hoercher, would take their daughter to Germany.

He said the girl, Angeline Bryan-Hoercher, 11, enjoyed her life on Kauai, where he took her after picking her up from her mother for a scheduled month-long visit on June 28, 1998.

"She was happy and healthy in every way," he said.

Circuit Judge John Hoy quoted from Bryan and Elke Hoercher's 1996 divorce agreement, which noted the mother's attempt to keep their daughter in Germany and ordered both parents not to hide the child's whereabouts from each other.

"Given the fact that he took her to Hawaii and made exceptional efforts to conceal who she was and who he was, and that he has no compunction about violating a court order, he'll be held without bond," Hoy said of Bryan, 45.

Defense attorney David Roth failed to convince the judge that Bryan, who had waived extradition, would appear for trial.

"Jon understood the reasons for the judge's decision," Roth said later.

Bryan was arrested Oct. 29 in Kauai and charged with taking his 11-year-old Angeline Bryan-Hoercher to live in Hawaii.

The next day, Bryan-Hoercher and her mother saw each other for the first time in five years.

The two returned to Florida last Tuesday.

According to the FBI, Bryan picked up his daughter from her mother for a scheduled visit on June 28, 1998. But when Bryan was due to return the girl a month later, the FBI said, the two were nowhere in sight.

The girl returned to Palm Beach County with her mother on Thursday. Bryan was brought to West Palm Beach over the weekend by Roth and a private investigator.

Hoy scheduled a hearing for Dec. 17 to set the case for trial if Roth and the state attorney's office can't work out terms for a plea.


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