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Catherine Keske, CSU prof, released from jail (again) in toxic parenting dispute

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Update: Catherine Keske, the CSU professor sentenced to ninety days in jail for contempt of court over a parenting dispute with her ex-husband involving a secure e-mail account for her son, among other things, was abruptly released less than 36 hours after the hearing in her case recounted below. On Saturday night, Jefferson County Detention Facility staff informed her she was free to leave. "They just said, 'You're out, go," Keske says. "I walked up to the Loaf 'N Jug and called my husband to come get me."

This is the second time Keske's unusual sentence, which stems from a magistrate's ruling that she'd interfered with her ex's ability to communicate with one of their sons, has been reversed. She was originally jailed August 11 but released four days later. After her ex-husband filed a motion contending that release was in error, she was jailed again last week. Keske she hasn't seen any court orders relating to the release and doesn't know if she is supposed to be on some form of home detention. "I'm home with my son, and that's good," she says.

See our previous coverage below.

Original item, 2:52 p.m. September 2: Three weeks ago, Colorado State University professor Catherine Keske was sentenced to ninety days in jail by Jefferson County Magistrate Chris Voisinet, who ruled that she'd interfered in her ex-husband's ability to communicate with their youngest son, in contempt of court orders. But today, Keske was back in court complaining about her ex defying court orders himself, and she got just about everything she asked for -- except her freedom.

Keske, who teaches in CSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, has been involved since 2006 in costly and highly contentious litigation with ex-husband Jeffrey Handley over parenting matters; currently, each parent has primary custody of one son. Voisinet's decision to send her to jail for, among other infractions, failing to provide the son in her custody with an unsupervised e-mail account, triggered outrage among her supporters, who criticized the magistrate for overzealous intrepretation of court orders that simply stated the parents would "encourage each child to communicate" with the other household.

Keske initially spent four days in jail and was released after paying money that Voisinet ruled was owed to Handley. But Handley sought to have the full sentence imposed, and her release order was revoked a few days later.

This morning, though, Voisinet sided with Keske, who appeared in blue jail scrubs to pursue her own claim that Handley has denied her access to the son in his care. Acting as her own attorney, she cross-examined Handley and took the stand herself to establish that she's had almost no contact with her older son since he went to live with his father two years ago, even though court orders called for visits at least one weekend every month.

Handley and his attorney, Mechelle Faulk, told Voisinet that the boy is "afraid of his mother" and refuses to see her. "He's thirteen," Faulk said. "You can't pick him up and put him in a car."

Keske pointed to experts' reports that suggested Handley had disparaged Keske in front of the children and alienated the boy from his mother. But Faulk contended that the dispute has been marked by "a pattern of both of the parties engaging inappropriately and the children seeing it." Various observers -- the case has had five judges and three child/family investigators to date -- have blasted Keske and Handley for (as one judge put it) "the parties' inability to communicate with each other, the large attorneys' fees they had incurred as a result, and the negative impact of their behavior on the children."

Voisinet decided that Handley was "clearly in violation" of the orders regarding monthly visits. Unlike her ex, Keske wasn't seeking a contempt order, but Voisinet did grant her request for make-up parenting time, supervised exchanges of the children for visits, and reunification therapy sessions for herself and her older son, to be paid for by Handley.

"The parallels between this hearing and the contempt hearing are telling," Voisinet said. "Both parties are putting me in the position of having to enforce court orders."

Handley insisted that he was merely trying to respect his son's wishes. Keske described Handley as the aggressor in the matter who continued to promote conflict. "This is not a punishment of Mr. Handley," she told Voisinet. "I would never seek to jail Mr. Handley. [But] I feel certain that if the court doesn't intervene, Mr. Handley will continue to harass me."

Noting that the son in her care has been diagnosed with a mental illness, Keske repeatedly asked the magistrate to grant her home detention so that she could be with him during her contempt sentence. Voisinet declined to rule on that request at the hearing's conclusion.

"I have to think this through," he said.

After Voisinet left the bench, several Keske supporters in the courtroom broke into applause for her -- while a sheriff's deputy handcuffed her and prepared to take her back to jail.

More from our Comment of the Day archive: "Reader: CSU prof Catherine Keske being jailed in child dispute is waste of taxpayer money."

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