By MARK O'BRIEN
PITTSFIELD, MA — Richard Rodriguez and his lawyer call it a victory two years in the making now that 8-year-old Ricky Rodriguez is back home in Pittsfield with his father.
The two were reunited earlier this week in Americus, KS, where Ricky's mother took him two years ago.
“He was hugging me on the plane, and then we went out to dinner,” Rodriguez says. “It's great. He's just so grown up now.”
Rodriguez says it started in February 2008. He came home from a Super Bowl party to find that Ricky and his mom had packed up and left.
“She took all the photos, everything,” he says. “She had full intentions of not ever letting me see my son again.”
Rodriguez and the mom were never married, meaning she automatically had custody by Massachusetts law. That was why police refused to press charges or put Ricky in a missing persons database.
A court awarded permanent custody of Ricky to Rodriguez last November after the mother failed to show up for the proceedings. Rodriguez, however, says even then law enforcement and government agencies did not help. He says if the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children had not stepped in last week, then Ricky might never have been found.
Rodriguez' attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo, III says the explanation is simple: in this case, the father is the victim.
“It's quite clear to me when a mother takes a child from a father, the government doesn't view it as bad (as) when a father does it,” he says. “If Richard did it, he would have been on the front page the next day, and there would have been a national manhunt.”
Pittsfield police would not comment on gender discrimination allegations, but Capt. John Mullin told News 10 off-camera that he could not speculate if things would have been different had the mother/father roles been reversed.
Del Gallo says federal agencies, including the IRS and Social Security Administration also refused to help despite an order to do so. Del Gallo says the mother was getting disability checks and cashing them.
Authorities are not filing charges against the mother, which Rodriguez says he is okay with. He also doubts that he can ever forgive the mother, but he says now is the time to move forward, especially since Ricky is happily back home.