Actress who snatched baby sentenced to two and a half years
Megan O'Toole Apr 1, 2011 – 5:30 PM ET
http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/04/01 ... alf-years/
A New York actress who abducted an infant at a fraudulent Bollywood casting call in west-end Toronto last year has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Michelle Marie Gopaul, 25, pleaded guilty Friday in a crime her lawyer said was motivated by “love.”
“When she took the baby, it was a point of no return and she couldn’t take it back,” defence lawyer Gary Batasar said.
After lying to her ex-boyfriend about being pregnant, Gopaul decided to steal an infant to support the lie, the court heard. In what had become a web of deception, Gopaul reportedly posted false updates about her pregnancy on social media websites, where she also promoted her singing and acting career.
Last December, Gopaul arranged a fake Bollywood casting call, asking parents to audition a “newborn baby girl of Indian background” for a potential $15,000 payout. Among the respondents were the parents of one-month-old Roma Patel, who disappeared shortly after arriving for the audition at a production company in Toronto’s west end.
“She realized immediately that she made an error,” Gopaul’s mother, Bridget Gopaul, told reporters outside court, noting her daughter promptly brought the baby to her ex-boyfriend, who returned the child to police.
“She was very upset and she was very confused, but when you’re in love, you’re in love,” Bridget Gopaul said.
Gopaul decided to enter a guilty plea after learning details of the “overwhelming” prosecution case against her, Mr. Batasar said.
“She wanted to demonstrate some remorse by admitting responsibility for what happened and putting the matter to rest, and putting the family and everybody else at ease that it’s over,” he said.
Justice William Wolski imposed the two-and-a-half year prison sentence in response to a joint Crown-defence submission. Gopaul, who had faced a maximum 10-year sentence, will be eligible for parole after serving five months. Upon her release, Gopaul will be deported back to the United States.
Experts say there were many red flags concerning Gopaul’s phony casting call, including the fact that it was advertised on Craigslist. Posted about a week prior to the Dec. 30 audition, the ad stated: “Top pay for Bollywood film. Needs star child for the lead in Born Again. Baby must be a … newborn baby girl of Indian background.”
Gopaul, using a false name, made hasty arrangements on Dec. 30 to rent space inside a west-end production company for the supposed audition, where a number of people came and went throughout the day. After the Patels arrived, Gopaul asked if she could take their baby into a separate room for a few minutes, according to an electrician who was at the scene.
Gopaul then sped off in a cab with the infant, but was arrested by police soon afterward. The baby, Roma, was unharmed.