Accused breast-feeding driver won’t act without husband’s consent

NEPA News, Aug. 8, 2003

A woman pulled over for breast-feeding her baby while driving on the Ohio Turnpike wept silently as she watched a videotape of an officer telling her he wasn’t going to hurt her.

The videotape viewed Wednesday in Portage County Municipal Court showed Catherine Nicole Donkers refusing to cooperate with troopers until she called her husband for permission.

On the videotape, Trooper Adam Doles could also be heard shouting “Move over! Move over!” before Donkers finally stopped at a toll booth following a three-mile pursuit.

Donkers, 29, and her husband, Brad Lee Barnhill, have both said Donkers was waiting to find a public place at which to stop because she had twice been assaulted by police officers.

Donkers, who refused her appointed public defender and instead defended herself, would not stand or speak during preliminary motions until Barnhill gave her permission from the first row of the audience. He was ordered to leave the courtroom before opening statements began.

Before the trial resumed Thursday, the couple chatted with reporters.

They would not give the name of their 9-month-old baby, who was dressed in pink and sat in a carrier on Donkers’ back.

“We call her affectionately girl pie,” Barnhill said. “You can spell that gurlpi.”

Barnhill, who cared for the child once the trial started, was expected to testify later Thursday.

On Wednesday, Judge Donald Martell dismissed a request by Barnhill to stand in for Donkers at the trial. Barnhill said he should be prosecuted because his religious belief dictates that he is the only one who can punish his wife.

“I directed her to do everything she did that day … Under our faith, she obeys me,” he said during a break.

The couple belongs to the First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty, a religious group that has a history of challenging state laws.

The organization was founded in Henderson, Nev., in the 1990s. It pledges allegiance to Jesus Christ and at times takes a dim view of the federal government. Barnhill says he is a minister in the fellowship with 650 followers.

Donkers is charged with misdemeanor counts of child endangering, failure to comply with the order of a police officer, driving without a license and several other driving infractions. She acknowledges breast-feeding while driving and says she did nothing wrong.

In court filings, the couple says neither has a Social Security number, they think it’s wrong to be required to have driver’s licenses and they do not have a marriage license, although they say they are husband and wife.

Barnhill said the couple was living temporarily in Pittsburgh for work, but Donkers was a resident of Michigan when arrested.

A conviction for misdemeanor child endangering carries maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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