A woman who refused to reveal her son’s whereabouts to state social workers was ordered freed Tuesday after more than seven years in jail on a contempt of court charge.
While her attorneys lauded Jacqueline Bouknight as a champion of civil disobedience, comparing her to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the judge scoffed at the comparison and acknowledged some officials fear her son is dead.
Bouknight, 29, showed no emotion during the nearly two-hour hearing.
“Jackie, it’s a tragedy you have let this go on so long,” said Mitchell Mirviss, the court-appointed lawyer for her son, identified in court records as “Maurice M.”
Maurice, who would now be 9, was taken from his mother when he was an infant and placed in temporary foster care after fractures were found on his right arm and shoulder. After Bouknight got the baby back, he disappeared.
Bouknight “has failed in 1988 and in every moment since then to comply with the law and produce information on the whereabouts of her son, Maurice,” said Assistant Attorney General Ralph S. Tyler III.
But Tyler told the court he could no longer argue that keeping Bouknight in jail would help the court find Maurice. He asked the court last week to release her on the condition that she not be allowed to come into contact with the child.
Bouknight’s attorneys, Michael Milliman and Cristina Gutierrez, said their client was trying to protect her son from the physical abuse she experienced in foster care when she was a child.
“I know of no parent that has proved their love for their children by sitting in jail for seven years,” Milliman said. “She may not be Mr. Tyler’s hero, but she’s mine.”