A 26-year-old man accused of abducting his infant son to Arizona last year while the boy’s mother in San Mateo sought an emergency custody order had been researching articles on the Internet about disappearing and traveling with a newborn, according to prosecutors.
After authorities arrested Zachary James Sorrell last year and recovered the baby, San Mateo police searched his trailer and reported finding multiple weapons including AK-47s, a TEC-9, a rifle and several thousand rounds of ammunition and loaded magazines.
But Sorrell’s defense attorney Gregory Bentley said the matters are two separate things — a child custody dispute and his fear he wouldn’t see his son and possession of weapons by an ex-military member that are legal in other states where they were purchased.
“Mr. Sorrell is an honest, good man and not at all somebody who would knowingly violate the law,” Bentley said. “Calling him a kidnapper of his own child is really pushing the envelope.”
Sorrell is charged with depriving a lawful custodian of custody and multiple weapons charges. On Tuesday, Sorrell pleaded not guilty to all charges in Superior Court and set a Sept. 22 jury trial.
Sorrell and his son’s mother dated for two years but were no longer together when their son was born in February 2013. However, they agreed to co-parent the boy and traveled from Kentucky to California by trailer that April and stayed at the San Mateo home of the woman’s sister.
In May 2013, prosecutors say the couple’s relationship worsened and Sorrell refused to seek a formal custody arrangement but offered his ex-girlfriend $2,000 to let him take the boy to Israel for two months.
Bentley said his client had traveled the world as a Marine for six years and offered to continue financially support the woman while he returned to Israel for a few weeks.
Prosecutors say the woman told Sorrell she’d think about it but found on his computer Internet searches about how to disappear and travel with a newborn. She allowed Sorrell to take the boy overnight and went to Redwood City for an emergency custody order. While there, Sorrell took the baby to his mother’s Arizona home.
Bentley said the woman knew he was taking the baby overnight, just not to Arizona, and that he even called San Mateo police on his way out to ask if he was violating any laws. Police advised him to call an attorney or the court, Bentley said.
The woman ultimately received an emergency court order and Sorrell was arrested by Arizona authorities which sparked the search of the trailer.
The woman was well aware of the weapons since they had traveled in that trailer from Kentucky and was “just as much in possession of them as he was,” Bentley said.
He also discounted the woman’s discovery of the Internet searches as his client simply looking into options.
“That is unsubstantiated and there is just no evidence he was actually going to follow through,” Bentley said. “You have to look at a woman’s actions versus what he says or looks at.”
Sorrell had been free on $50,00 bail but Judge Marta Diaz remanded him back into custody and hiked bail to $300,000 after a preliminary hearing. He posted the new bond last Thursday.
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