WOMAN FACES CONTEMPT SENTENCE IN CUSTODY CASE
By Darlene Gavron Stevens, Tribune Staff Writer
Web-posted Thursday, October 23, 1997; 6:05 a.m. CDT
Bess Kontos, who for nearly three years has openly supported her two teenagers' decision not to see their father, will begin a 2-week jail term Thursday for contempt of court now that a higher court has declined to intervene.
The 3rd District Appellate Court on Wednesday denied her motion to stay the jailing so that she could appeal the ruling by Will County Associate Judge Robert Lorz, who imposed the punishment Tuesday after the Bolingbrook mother refused to notify the state child-welfare agency about her custody case.
Lorz had asked Kontos Oct. 7 to deliver a copy of her March divorce judgment, in which he states that Kontos mentally abused her children, so that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services could begin supervising counseling and other conditions of custody.
Kontos refused, saying that delivering a copy of the judgment would be like reporting herself to the agency and agreeing with the judge's finding that she abused her children, both honors students and competitive swimmers.
"Every threat all along in this case has been about jail," said Kontos, who was making preparations to have her brother stay with the children and her 85-year-old mother during the sentence. "I say my children have a right to speak for themselves and that I am not a child abuser. Now I am going to jail."
Christopher Rouskey, attorney for the children's father, Kostas Kapsimalis, said he hoped the jail term would persuade Kontos to obey the judge's other orders and get the children to counseling.
After three years of bitter proceedings, Lorz granted custody of Galatea Kapsimalis, 17, and her brother Peter, 15, to Kontos on the condition that the children go to counseling and sort out why they have refused to see their father since 1995.
For more than two years now, Kapsimalis' teenagers have refused to see him, swearing at him and slamming the door when he came on scheduled days.
Kostas Kapsimalis long argued, and the judge ultimately agreed, that Kontos turned the children against him.
Noting the teens' strong stance throughout the case and custody trial, Lorz said he had little choice but to "award custody to a parent who has abused them." He temporarily suspended visitation, and emphasized counseling as a condition of the custody arrangement.
The children have said they no longer love their father because he left them.
The recent contempt charge was the fourth issued against Kontos by Lorz, who in the past has used the threat of jail against Kontos to force the children to comply with psychological evaluations and attorney interviews. The case drew attention in 1996, a few months after Lorz threatened the children with jail if they continued to disobey his visitation orders.
In March, Lorz backed off the children, saying he had reached the "inescapable conclusion that these children have been so thoroughly dominated by their mother that their ability to resist . . . is so small as to have no real or legal significance."
The teens have been so persistent in their refusals, they even staged a one-day hunger strike earlier this year to try to persuade their father to stop the court fight.
Rouskey acknowledged that Thursday's jailing is "not good for the children. But it's not good for the children what she (the mother) has done. At some point someone has to make her understand that the laws affect her. Someone has to look at the psychological harm she has done by denying (the children) a father."
Kontos, a factory worker who has been representing herself because she is in debt, said it is her ex-husband who has done the irreparable harm by continuing the battle.
"He is the one who left without even telling his children," she said.
"Now I am going to jail because he won't quit."