After Being Kidnapped and Held Against Their Will, Amanda Berry, Georgina "Gina" DeJesus and Michelle Knight are Free!

Earlier this week, Cleveland police arrested Ariel Castro, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro. The three men will be charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. If any of the female victims have been sexually abused, additional charges will be filed.

Amanda escaped Monday night after breaking out the bottom of a screen door and screaming “Help me, I am Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.” Neighbor Charles Ramsey was sitting down to a fast food meal Monday night when he heard screaming and ran over to help. She subsequently led Ramsey and police to the other two victims.

For those of you who don’t recall of the details of this tragic story, Amanda Berry was last seen on April 21, 2003. She had just gotten off work at Burger King and never made it home. Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, was 14 when she disappeared nearly a year later. Michelle Knight vanished on August 22, 2002, according to Cleveland Public Safety Director Martin Flask. A family member reported her missing the next day, Flask said. She was 21 years old at the time.

My Own Personal Thoughts

As a father of two, I have my own ideas about how justice should dispensed on these three suspects if found guilty. Having said that, I’ll let Cleveland police and the local criminal justice system adjudicate the facts and render justice.

After this story made the news, several clients called my office to get my take on the situation. They were wondering if the girls could sue one or more of the three men for civil damages in addition to the criminal charges they’ll be facing.

Although I’m not licensed to practice law in Ohio, I’m fairly certain the laws are similar to what we have in California. In California, the men would be charged by the District Attorney’s Office for kidnapping and false imprisonment. If one or more of the girls were sexually abused, additional charges, possibly including rape, would also be included. If found guilty, the defendants would spend a great deal of time, if not the rest of their lives, behind bars.

I told my clients that if this had happened in California, the victims could sue the men in civil court for civil actions including false imprisonment, rape and for substantial money damages.

What is Kidnapping and False Imprisonment?

Generally speaking, kidnapping occurs when a person, without lawful authority, physically moves another person without that other person’s consent, with the intent to use the abduction in connection with some other nefarious objective. Kidnapping may be done for ransom or political purpose or other purposes. Kidnapping can be of first degree or second degree. Kidnapping is a crime which is punishable upon successful prosecution.
False imprisonment is defined as the non-consensual, intentional confinement of a person, without lawful privilege, for an appreciable length of time, however short, which causes the plaintiff to suffer harm. It’s the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another. It can be prosecuted as a crime in California. Victims of false imprisonment may also be entitled to civil claim for money damages.

To prove that a false imprisonment took place, we usually need to show confinement and that the restraint was effectuated by means of physical force. This includes a threat of force or arrest; physical barriers; fraud or deceit or by means of any other form of unreasonable duress. We must show that it was non-consensual.

In California, we are required to show the act was intentional. Negligence is not enough. For example, the only mental state required to prove false imprisonment is the intent to confine, or to create a similar intrusion, not an intent or motive to cause harm.

It’s also required that we show that the confinement took place without lawful privilege. Detentions that are authorized by law do not constitute false imprisonment.

Generally speaking, the confinement must be for an appreciable length of time. Having said that, one California cases found that false imprisonment took place after only 15 minutes. Each case is different and it really does depend on the facts.

It is noted that imprisonment based on lawful arrest is not false and is not actionable in tort. On the other hand, since an arrest involves detention or restraint, false arrest always involves an imprisonment.


Victims of false imprisonment are entitled to certain remedies. These include nominal damages, compensatory damages (in addition to emotional distress damages, plaintiff is entitled to compensation for other resulting harm, such as loss of time, physical discomfort or inconvenience, any resulting physical illness or injury to health, business interruption and damage to reputation); emotional distress; punitive damages and even attorney’s fees.

Statute of Limitations

In California, the statute of limitations is one year. What this means is that a victim of false imprisonment must file a claim within one year from when he knew or should have known of the false imprisonment. The time period is of course tolled if the victim is unable to take action because of the actual false imprisonment.

California prohibits false arrest actions against a peace officer or public entity while related criminal charges are pending, and tolls the statute of limitations during this period.


People charged with false imprisonment may have the following defense available to them- Statute of Limitations; Consent; Immunity; Peace Officer Immunity; Public Officer or Employee Immunity; Publication Privilege; Freedom of Religion; Parental Authority;

In addition to false imprisonment, other related causes of action we may also allege, depending on the facts of a case, include: Criminal False Imprisonment; Civil Assault; Criminal Assault; Stalking; Police Misconduct; Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress; Trespass to Person; Sexual Harassment; and Unlawful Seduction.

Obviously, these three men are presumed innocent. I’m curious to see what happens during the legal proceedings and also interested in hearing what the victims have to report.

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