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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Judge Convicted for Adoption Shortcuts

Galina Antushevich knows what life is like in Russia's children's homes. She grew up in one.

So, as a judge in Khabarovsk's Industrial Court, she did what she could to get children out of them - and adopted by parents in the United States. She moved the cumbersome adoption process ahead quickly, she says.

Too quickly, according to prosecutors in the Far Eastern region. They say Antushevich illegally cut corners, making decisions without legally required investigations and without bothering to make sure that the biological parents had given up their legal rights.

The judge was convicted earlier this month and sentenced to two years suspended sentence in proceedings heard in Khabarovsk but decided by Supreme Court judges in Moscow.

She's appealing to the Supreme Court's appeals panel, saying she did nothing illegal and was only doing her best to help abandoned children.

Prosecutors said she did not take money for speeding up the cases and acted out of concern for children - one reason she got only a suspended sentence.

"I don't agree with the verdict," Antushevich said. "The whole investigation was based on old-fashioned and falsified methods. There is no proof that I have committed a crime. The evidence they gave is fabricated, it's a lie."

Antushevich said many of the children had been abandoned by their parents and had little chance of adoption in Russia.

"I myself was born in a children's home. Children in institutions here are living in conditions that are not fit for human dignity. It's even a threat to their health, to their life," she said.

But Sergei Verbin, the federal prosecutor who dealt with the case, said that Antushevich failed to give Russian adoptive families a chance to adopt the children before they were sent overseas. She also made decisions without convening court session and recording proceedings, he said.

The prosecutor's office began investigating after two U.S.-based adoption agencies, Carolina Adoption Services in North Carolina and European Adoption Consultants in Ohio, fought over the adoption of a 2-year-old for whom each had a candidate adoptive mother. In the end, neither agency placed the child.

Representatives of Carolina Adoption Services said they were not aware of the case, but said their adoptions were carried out in accordance with both U.S. and Russian law. European Adoption Consultants could not immediately be reached.

Antushevich said that her case was influenced by anti-American newspaper stories in local newspapers.

"In Khabarovsk, newspapers have been going on about how Americans are trying to get Russian orphans to use them for the transplant of organs. And that's what they are trying to link me with," she said.

"If it is proven that the facts were falsified, then I have a good chance," she said. "I don't understand. I acted in the children's interests, children that are ill, abandoned. I don't know if that is a crime."