October 27, 1998


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Parents raise safety issues, get hearing
A new twist in Moceanu case
Houston Chronicle Article
Copyright © 1998 Houston Chronicle

Moceanu asked Monday that an emergency court hearing be held to determine if she is safe. Dumitru and Camelia Moceanu claim Dominique's court-appointed attorney has left their daughter under the influence of an undocumented immigrant and two men of questionable motives who are harming her and her career. The hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday.

The three people who have been helping her hide since she ran away Oct. 17 from her parents' home in Spring are Luminita Miscenco, 26, her gymnastics coach; Brian Huggins, 32, a friend; and Jeff Pudlo, 23, who coached at the Moceanu gym until he was fired the day Dominique ran away. Dominique, who turned 17 Sept. 30, filed suit Oct. 19 seeking to be certified as an adult, saying her father has squandered the money she has earned in her seven-year professional career. In an affidavit submitted in support of the request for a hearing, Janice Ward, a friend and former masseuse of Dominique, said, "Brian Huggins began a relationship with Dominique Moceanu when she was 15 years old and he was 31 years old. I counseled her about this relationship, because of the age difference and the fact that he was a married man and his wife never was with him." Dominique, who moved into her own apartment this weekend, said Monday that the implication of Ward's statement was "totally not fair. This has gone way over the limit, how can somebody stoop so low?" Dominique said Ward used to massage her after workouts and was one of the few adult friends her parents allowed her to have.

Huggins, a family friend who provided professional services for the Moceanus when they built their gym at 6120 Louetta, which opened last year, said the only reason he is helping is to ensure Dominique's safety. "As a parent I made the decision I wouldn't leave her out on the street," Huggins said. "I think any parent would want somebody doing that for their children." The Moceanus' court filings include the claim that Miscenco, whom Dominique credits with reviving her sagging career, "is currently illegally in the United States and may be subject to deportation immediately." Dominique's father, Dumitru Moceanu, is Miscenco's sponsor for her work visa. He fired her the day Dominique ran away.

Dominique said she is confident Miscenco will be allowed to stay in the United States to coach her. The affidavits claim that Miscenco, Huggins and Pudlo have conspired to influence Dominique to run away. "Dom made this decision on her own free will," Pudlo said, echoing the sentiments expressed by the others. "As a friend I told her I would help her but not influence her. The only benefit I want to see is her well-being. I don't want any money, I don't want anything." The parents' motion also says Dominique's court- appointed attorney, Ellen Yarrell, was out of town Friday or Saturday and thus could not be with Dominique. Yarrell said she was "insulted" by the insinuation she did not properly carry out her duties. She said it is not her responsibility to supervise Dominique around the clock. She said she talked frequently with Dominique by phone, even while out of town. Yarrell said she met with the Moceanus on Friday to try to settle the matter out of court, and that they told her they are concerned that Miscenco, Huggins and Pudlo would leave their daughter "penniless" if she were certified as an adult. Yarrell said she proposed that a third party oversee Dominique's trust fund so she would not spend the money unwisely, but her parents refused, saying it is a "family matter."

Dominique said Monday she had always assumed she would have access to the trust fund when she turned 18, but was shocked to read in a newspaper last week that she would not have access to it until age 35. The hearing on her request to be certified an adult is scheduled for Nov. 11, but a request to delay that hearing will be heard Nov. 4, as well as a request to have the entire matter dropped. Yarrell said she filed a motion Monday to be appointed as Dominique's guardian if the adult status hearing is delayed.