NEWARK, Del. (AP) – A Delaware woman who says charges that she tried to sell her baby to a Philadelphia man for $15,000 are the result of a huge misunderstanding fears that she will go to prison if authorities are successful in getting her bail increased.
Bridget Wismer was arrested last week and released on $750 bail after being charged with dealing in children and conspiracy.
But the Delaware attorney general’s asked a judge this week to hold an emergency hearing on their request to increase Wismer’s bail, prevent her from seeing her baby, and subject her to electronic tracking.
A hearing on the state’s motion was set for Friday.
“We are seeking a no-contact order for the mother, GPS monitoring, and an increase in bail to ensure the safety of the child and to ensure the mother’s appearance at future court dates,” said Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Delaware Department of Justice.
But Wismer, who denies the charges, said what the state is trying to do could break up her family.
“I really feel that they are not doing what’s in the best interest of my child,” she said Thursday.
Wismer, 33, also fears that if she is in prison and unable to make bail, her two older sons, who she said are very close, will have to live separately with relatives.
“I’m the glue holding this family together, without me it doesn’t work,” said Wismer, who is unsure where she would find up to $8,000 for bail if the court grants the state’s request.
In seeking higher bail and new restrictions for Wismer, deputy attorney general Phyllis Scully wrote that the state’s bail guidelines range from $500 to $6,000 for dealing in children, and from $250 to $2,000 for second-degree conspiracy.
Instead of being given the low end of the range, Wismer should be subjected to a higher amount, argued Scully, alleging that Wismer’s family has shown no inclination to protect the baby, who is now in foster care, and that Wismer is a threat to him.
Wismer wondered why, if authorities believed she was such a threat to her newborn son, they allowed the baby to go home with her, why they waited a month until after he was born to put him in foster care, and why they haven’t taken away her other two sons.
Meanwhile, a representative of the state Division of Family Services showed up at Wismer’s home late Wednesday to serve papers notifying her that DFS was beginning an abuse/neglect action in connection with the alleged baby selling. Wismer faces an Oct. 12 court date to answer those charges.
In the notice, DFS officials said Wismer’s baby was placed in the care of co-defendant John Gavaghan on Sept. 28 after a New Castle County police detective stated that police were closing their investigation of the alleged baby selling plot.
Wismer said Armando Gonzales, a case worker for the Division of Family Services, previously had told her that DFS planned to close its own investigation once social service counterparts in Philadelphia cleared Gavaghan.
But according to the DFS notice Wismer received late Wednesday, New Castle County police obtained new evidence on Sept. 29 about the alleged plot, based on videotape from Christiana Hospital showing Wismer and Gavaghan signing receipts of a monetary transaction involving the child.
Wismer said there was no such meeting.
In a probable cause affidavit, police alleged that Gavaghan, 54, was captured on video surveillance not at Christiana Hospital, where the baby was born, but at the Delaware Park casino. The affidavit alleges that Gavaghan was seen with documents containing information regarding payments and balance due for the child.
Wismer said Gavaghan often carried around financial paperwork with him at Delaware Park, and that he would jot down entries when he provided money to help her out. She estimates that over the course of the past several months, starting before the baby was born, Gavaghan has given her between $5,000 and $7,000.
Wismer said she and Gavaghan met with an attorney in Philadelphia before the baby was born to try to formalize an arrangement to share in the care of the child. She said the attorney told them to just list Gavaghan on the birth certificate as the father.
In asking for higher bail for Wismer, Scully wrote that Gavaghan is “allegedly a known seller of prescription medications and bookmaker at Delaware Park.”
Court records in Delaware do not show any criminal history for Gavaghan, however, other than the recent charges involving the alleged baby sale.
In 1995, Gavaghan was sentenced to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty in federal court in Pennsylvania to two counts of money laundering and one count of theft. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to theft and bad check charges in Pennsylvania.
Gavaghan did not immediately return a telephone message Thursday.
Wismer and Gavaghan are the only people charged in the case, even though authorities claim that Wismer’s mother and sister knew and approved of the alleged plot. Gavaghan’s partner, a man named Antonio, also knew of the arrangement and attended a baby shower held in August to celebrate the boy’s impending birth. He, too, has not been charged.
Miller, the spokesman for the attorney general’s office, refused to say why no one other than Wismer and Gavaghan were charged.
“We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation,” he said.
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