Family Law

Military lawyer abducted war orphan when she arrived in US with guardians, suit claims

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A legal dispute between an Afghan couple and a U.S. military lawyer centers on a child who was about 2 months old in September 2019 when she was injured and her family was killed in a U.S. military operation in rural Afghanistan.

Now, the child is living with a military lawyer and his wife in the United States, and the Afghan couple who were raising the child have sued for false imprisonment, conspiracy, fraud and assault.

The Associated Press investigated the case and published a story, which was picked up by Fox News and Yahoo News.

The Afghan couple—the child’s cousin and wife—had become legal guardians for Baby Doe after a search for her relatives located the cousin’s father, according to their Sept. 2 lawsuit. The child was released to the couple from a military hospital in Afghanistan in February 2020.

The suit uses the pseudonyms John and Jane Doe for the couple.

The Does allege that U.S. Marine Corps lawyer Joshua Mast, who had been deployed to Afghanistan, “fraudulently obtained” a custody and interlocutory adoption order from a U.S. court in Virginia “despite the fact that Baby Doe had never stepped foot on Virginia soil and remained in Afghanistan.”

Mast also filed an unsuccessful suit to stop the release of the child to the Afghan couple. After that failed, Mast and his wife contacted the Does through a U.S. attorney in Afghanistan and promised to help Baby Doe obtain medical care, the suit says. The attorney was Kimberley Motley, described by the AP as “a near-celebrity American attorney in Afghanistan.” Motley was profiled by the ABA Journal in a 2018 story.

The Masts obtained a final order of adoption in December 2020.

With Mast’s help, the Does brought Baby Doe to the United States after Afghanistan began to fall to the Taliban. According to the suit, Mast submitted paperwork indicating that Baby Doe was a U.S. “military dependent” being brought to the United States.

Mast met the couple at the airport and presented an Afghan passport for Baby Doe with the last name Mast. Baby Doe’s picture was from a photo that the Masts had asked the Afghan couple to provide. When Baby Doe was taken away five days later, John Doe pleaded with Mast, the suit says. Mast’s response, the lawsuit alleges, was to stomp on John Doe’s foot and shove him.

The couple have not seen the child since. They contend that Mast was able to obtain the adoption after falsely telling the Virginia court that Baby Doe was a “stateless minor recovered off the battlefield” who was subject to the court’s jurisdiction. The custody order was also based on Mast’s assertion that the Afghan government intended to waive jurisdiction over the child, according to the AP.

Mast and his wife are seeking dismissal of the lawsuit. They contend that they are the legal parents of Baby Doe, and they “acted admirably” to protect her, according to the AP.

The Masts say Baby Doe was orphaned when her father detonated a suicide vest, and her mother was shot while resisting arrest in the military operation. Mast has said he thinks that Baby Doe’s parents were transient terrorists who are not citizens of any country.

The Does, meanwhile, are seeking to reverse the adoption in Virginia state court. The court proceedings are closed to the public.

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