Brazilian grandparents convicted in international kidnapping case

The Brazilian couple charged with kidnapping their grandson from Houston have been found guilty on one count and not guilty on another. This verdict does not actually get Houston doctor Chris Brann any closer to getting his son back. Although prosecutors have said they would make all of the charges against the grandparents disappear if 8-year-old Nico is returned to Houston from Brazil.               

The nearly 70-year-old grandparents, Carlos and Jemima Guimaraes, left from the federal courthouse in downtown Houston with strict new bond restraints that will only allow them to leave their son’s house to visit their attorney’s office, now that they have been found guilty of international kidnapping.

"I and our team are crushed," says Carlos Guimaraes’ attorney Rusty Hardin. "We are tremendously surprised and disappointed.”

“It’s a big blow,” adds the Guimaraes’ close friend David Austgen. 

"It’s just sadness," says the couple's son Roberto. "I know they’re not guilty. They’re good parents. They didn’t do anything wrong.”  

Jurors had been deliberating the case since Tuesday and ultimately found the grandparents not guilty of a more serious charge of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

Nico Brann was 3 years old when his parents were in the middle of a divorce and his mother Marcelle took him to Brazil in July of 2013 and never returned. In Marcelle’s absence, a Harris County court gave Nico’s father, Dr. Chris Brann, custody. A Brazilian court, meantime, ruled Brann’s ex-wife was a victim of spousal abuse and granted her custody.

"Marcelle Guimaraes was fleeing domestic violence,” explains Austgen. 

"I don’t know what a grandparent was expected to do in this circumstance if they believed their daughter is the victim of domestic violence," says Hardin. "That’s what they believe. The evidence was not contradicted.”  

"Dr. Chris Brann admitted to that on the stand in his testimony under oath," adds Austgen. "So it’s very hard for us to understand how the jury got to where they are today.”  

Carlos and Jemima Guimaraes were arrested in February 2018 after arriving in the U.S. from Brazil.

"They’ve had a very hard time since they were arrested,” says Austgen.  

Federal prosecutors have said they would make all of the grandparents' legal troubles go away if Nico is returned.  

"If the government used a criminal charge against grandparents who believe their daughter was the victim of domestic violence in order to try to get the child back, the end never justifies the means,” says Hardin.                       

Now that they are found guilty, the grandparents could simply be fined or could be sentenced to three years in prison but Judge Alfred Bennett is still considering a motion to dismiss the case against them.

As it stands right now, if Marcelle ever returns to the United States, she’ll be arrested for kidnapping. If Dr. Brann goes back to Brazil, he’ll be arrested for failing to pay alimony.