Published November 20, 2014
A 16-year-old boy whose father abducted him and his brother and took them on a two-year, international odyssey with their uncle and cousin pleaded Tuesday with a federal judge for his father's freedom. But it was to no avail.
U.S. District Judge Otis Wright ordered a 27-month prison sentence for George Silah, one of two brothers who abducted their sons and took them out of the United States without the consent of their ex-wives in 2008.
"My dad has been the perfect father all my life. ... All I want is to be reunited with him on the outside," Alex Silah said. He told the judge how his father had hired tutors for him and educated him on how to live abroad.
George Silah's attorney, Matt Kohn, said, "This young man came here smarter, wiser and self-motivated. He did not come back to be a trouble-maker like his father was in this case."
George Silah and his brother, John Silah, were extradited to the U.S. after they were found in the Netherlands in November 2010 with their sons. By then, the boys had been missing for two years and were the subject of an international manhunt.
Their mothers, who were divorced from the two brothers, had gone on TV pleading for their return and blogged about the case.
Earlier this month, both men pleaded guilty to kidnapping. John Silah will be sentenced in August.
George Silah blamed his actions on fear for his son's safety, saying threats were made by clients in a soured business deal. But the judge said that excuse "rings hollow." He suggested Silah was trying to inflict psychic pain on his ex-wife.
Wright asked Alex Silah whether he could have called his mother while they were on the run, and the boy said cell phones were available but he chose not to make contact.
"I knew if we called my mother and went back my dad would go to jail," he said. "I had seen pictures of me on the news."
Authorities said the international flight began after the Silah brothers picked up their sons for visits in the summer of 2008. George Silah said he was taking his sons on a cruise and obtained their birth certificates from their mother.
Instead, they traveled through Mexico, Central America and Europe for the next two years before being detained by Dutch authorities.
"I know my action at that time was wrong," George Silah told the judge. "I was a father that was afraid for my kids' life. ... I feel pain in me seeing my kids suffering first because they were missing their mother and now because of this ordeal."
Alex Silah said he came to court over his mother's objections and she threatened to lock him out of the house when he returns.
"I love my mother," he said.
While he was missing, "My father never said bad things about her," he added. "Now my mother says I'm brainwashed. It hurts. She says my dad is a criminal."
The judge told Silah he could not understand how he could allow a worldwide manhunt to go on, "and there's not even a phone call saying the kids are OK."
George Silah spent time in custody in the Netherlands while fighting extradition and another 18 months in custody in the U.S.
Prison officials will determine how much credit for time served he might be given. After release, he will be on a year's supervised probation.
Father and son were allowed to sit and talk with each other for a few minutes before the father was taken back to prison.