Father sentenced to probation for abduction of daughters

PAXTON – Michael J. Hari was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months probation. A Ford County jury found him guilty in mid-October of abducting his two daughters, a case that received national attention on "The Dr. Phil Show."

During the sentencing hearing, Ford County State's Attorney Tony Lee argued that Hari, 35, also should serve a six-month sentence at the Ford County Correctional Center in Paxton.

Lee said Hari "displayed classic criminal tendencies" and referred to a sentencing report that said Hari "rationalized the situation for his own benefit, minimized his own wrongdoing and projected blame onto others."

Lee said Hari should have been well aware of his wrongdoing because of his master's degree work in criminal justice and prior employment as a Ford County deputy.

Hari's attorney, Neill Schurter of Rantoul, told Circuit Court Judge Steve Pacey that Hari violated civil law but "did not knowingly violate criminal statutes."

Schurter told Pacey that Hari would honor probation conditions because he voluntarily returned to Ford County to face the child abduction charges.

Hari addressed the judge and asked the record to reflect what he claimed were misstatements made at trial by both Lee and "Dr. Phil Show" investigator Harold Copus. Pacey told Hari that the time to dispute or contradict testimony was at trial.

Hari also said that as a matter of principle it was not appropriate for him to express remorse because he still maintains his innocence.

Pacey also ordered Hari to pay for any counseling that might be ordered by the judge in child custody proceedings that are under way and Hari must comply with any support orders in that case.

During the two-day trial in October, the prosecution argued Hari did not comply with an April 6, 2005, emergency order by Judge Pacey which granted temporary custody to Hari's ex-wife, Michelle Frakes of Peoria.

Hari's defense centered on the fact that he had custody of his daughters Mollie, 15, and (Allene) Grace, 13, since 2001, and that when he left on April 1, 2005, he was not aware of the contents of the April 6 order.

The girls were not returned to the U.S. until February when they were located by Copus. The girls were living with their father in the Central American country of Belize.

Sections (2):News, Local
Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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