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Interview with Nona Cason, Mark Shelowitz

Aired June 13, 2003 - 19:41   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Try to picture this scenario if you can. You're a mother driving down the street with two kids in a car. You come up to a roadblock. You have no idea why it's there. Suddenly your vehicle is surrounded by police. They have guns drawn, pointed at you. That is the beginning for a more woman named Nona Cason, and that is her name.
Reporter Jason Wheeler of affiliate WFOR has this unbelievable story.


JASON WHEELER, WFOR CORRESPONDENT: Last month at a Broward intersection, Nona Cason found herself surrounded by traffic one moment and federal agents the next. All of them with their guns drawn demanding that she leave her car and her two young kids and come with them.

NONA CASON, MISTAKEN FOR FRENCH FUGITIVE: Well, how could this be happening to me?

How could this happen to anybody?

WHEELER: For the next week, locked up in federal custody, Cason says she was told her name was Nadine Tetrakof (ph) and was a fugitive from France who had illegally taken her children from her husband.

MARK SHELOWITZ, CASON'S ATTORNEY: The French citizen actually came to court. Stood two to three feet directly in front of her and said that's my wife.

CASON: No. I've never even been to France.

WHEELER: She gave the court a birth certificate, fingerprints, passports and work records.

SHELOWITZ: To show that it was an physical impossibility for Nona Cason to be Nadine Tetrakof.

WHEELER: But to no avail. Worse yet.

SHELOWITZ: Her kids were placed in foster care.

WHEELER: After three weeks of separation from her kids, DNA tests finally proved that the children did not belong to the Frenchman. Mom and kids were reunited and the case was over. But the nightmare was not.

CASON: Kind of sometimes wake up at night and go in there and check to make sure they're OK.


COOPER: It's unbelievable. The woman caught in the middle of the ordeal joins us from Florida, Nona Cason. And she is joined by her attorney Mark Shelowitz.

I appreciate you joining us, although, under these circumstances I wish it was something cheerier to talk about. Nona, put us back when you're driving in the car, the police suddenly -- you're at a roadblock. Suddenly they have got their guns drawn and they're pointing at you.

What did you think?.

CASON: Correct. I really didn't know what to think. I thought they must be, you know going to arrest someone. I had no idea they were going to arrest me. It was really surprising and very fearful about -- very frighten to having guns pointed at you.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, I'm sure you've seen this kind of stuff on TV and in the movies. Never thought it would happen to you. Suddenly you're sitting there and your in a squad car and your trying to explain to them you're Nona Cason.

And they say, no, you're not, you're this French woman.

What is that like?

CASON: They kept telling me I was lying and that I needed to cooperate with the investigation. And I said, I am -- this is who I am. I'm not -- I've never been to France before. So this this is obviously an error but they would not listen at all.

COOPER: And they your kids right then and there?

CASON: Yes, my children were in the car with me when I was arrested at gunpoint. And my son said, mom what is going on? I said, honey, I have no idea. And then they were parked right next to me when I was being interrogated by the marshals.

COOPER: Then I think a couple of days later, you're in front of a judge. You think it will be resolved because the Frenchman, I guess, who was married to this woman is there. And I still don't understand. He looks at you, three feet away you and he says, you are his wife.

CASON: That's correct.

COOPER: Do you have any explanation at that at this point?

CASON: I can not speak for him. I don't know why he did what he did. I was very excited when I found out he was coming because I thought my goodness, he's going to see me. He's going to know I'm not his wife and all of this is going to be over. That wasn't what happened, at all. He was allowed to approach me, completely unescorted. I was in my -- I was shackled and handcuffed. And...

COOPER: Unbelievable.

Now, Mark, when did you get involved in this?

It was a couple of days before Nona was able to contact a lawyer, right?

SHELOWITZ: That's correct. She was arrested on a Friday, and actually made repeated attempts to make phone calls. At one point my client indicates to me they told her unless she signs her name in the jail as Nadine Tetrakof, they wouldn't even give her a phone access or phone list to make phone calls. My firm had something to do a few months ago. We did some simply employment contract and Nona happened remembered our name Shelowitz and Terrell. And she told the jailer and they made a call and that's when we got on the case. When I first got on the case my call was to the attorney general's office asking what was being done. And suggesting to prove my client was innocent we had offered also to the U.S. attorney


CASON: It has been very, very traumatic. Horrible. You know...

COOPER: What do you say to your kids?

CASON: I feel confused, I feel bewildered, I feel violated, and just


COOPER: What has this done to your kids?


CASON: Sure, my son is very angry and hurt. And confused and he is, you know


COOPER: Where does this go from here, Mark?

Are you planning legal action?

SHELOWITZ: At this point we're not ruling anything out. My client is thrilled that she's out of custody, that she's reunited with her family. Right now my client is going through the gamut of emotions. She said, she's angry, she's confused, violated and humiliated. She wants answers. Right now we received no answers no apologies from the U.S., the French government. Apparently the French citizen and the "Herald" today said he was sorry, but that doesn't quite cut it.

COOPER: It doesn't explain how he could look at her three feet away and say that's his wife.

SHELOWITZ: That's right. That's the most shocking part.

COOPER: We are going to have to leave it here. Appreciate talking to you. Thank you for telling us your story.


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