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Wednesday December 9 7:18 PM ET

Moceanu's Father Must Stay Away

By TERRI LANGFORD Associated Press Writer __________________________________________

HOUSTON (AP) - The father of gymnast Dominique Moceanu must stay away from his daughter for a full year, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The 17-year-old Olympian wept and Dumitru Moceanu appeared visibly stunned as state District Judge John D. Montgomery restricted any contact between the Romanian native and his gold medalist daughter to letters or through her lawyer.

``This job comes with a robe and gavel, not a magic wand to make the pain go away,'' Montgomery said after issuing the permanent protective order.

Montgomery, who declared the athlete a legal adult on Oct. 28, ruled that Dumitru Moceanu cannot get within 500 feet of his daughter and cannot threaten or have her followed in any way.

The decision followed more than four hours of testimony in a hearing called by the gymnast and her lawyer.

``I'm sad, but yet, in a way happy,'' Moceanu said, adding that her life has been turned upside down since her emancipation from her parents.

The Moceanus refused comment. Their lawyer, Katherine Scardino, described the couple as ``devastated'' at the ruling.

``She (Dominique) wouldn't even speak to them today,'' Scardino said.

Montgomery had previously issued a temporary protective order prohibiting contact with both parents.

Camelia Moceanu, her mother, no longer is restricted by the court.

Dominique Moceanu testified that she and a friend so feared for their safety that they left Houston for 10 days, including a brief Caribbean stop, while police investigated alleged threats by her father.

The pair left town after Houston homicide detectives informed her Nov. 13 that Dumitru Moceanu allegedly wanted to harm Brian Huggins, who had helped the gymnast hide from her family, and her coach.

Asked Wednesday whether her father was capable of such a thing, Moceanu said, ``At this point, anything's capable.''

Moceanu fled her home earlier this fall and called a lawyer to begin seeking legal adulthood after friends prodded her to question what her parents had done with the money she's earned as a star athlete.

With earnings generated by public appearances and competition, her parents built a 70,000 square-foot gym just north of Houston a few years ago. The cost was reportedly around $4 million.

After her parents grudgingly allowed Moceanu to claim legal adulthood, she testified that she saw her father's cars at school. One day last month, her father pulled her over on a north Houston road and engaged in a heated exchange that ended with him regretting having signed the agreement, she said.

``Ever since the emancipation, all we've had is arguments,'' she said.

She learned of the alleged threats from police the next day, including an investigator's claim that her father wanted Huggins and coach Luminita Miscenco dead.

Soon thereafter, she and Huggins boarded a friend's private jet and headed to Las Vegas to warn the coach, then flew to the Cayman Islands, according to testimony.

She spent Thanksgiving in Phoenix with the family of Amanda Borden, a teammate on the Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. gymnastics team of 1996.

Asked about taped conversations dealing with the police investigation into his alleged threats, Dumitru Moceanu took his lawyer's advice: ``On the Fifth Amendment, I'm not going to answer,'' he said, invoking his right not to answer potentially self-incriminating questions.

The Houston Police Department handed over the tapes to Montgomery, who later said he didn't need them to make his ruling.

Huggins and his wife also have obtained a temporary restraining order against Moceanu.

Dumitru Moceanu testified that he met with a private investigator three times trying to find his daughter's new address, but added that no money changed hands.

``I talk with investigator just to find the address,'' said Moceanu, a Romanian immigrant. ``I don't pay him.''

Moceanu later testified that her father sent him a bouquet of flowers as a way of informing her he knew where she lived.

Father and daughter were quietly expressive as the other testified. She often rolled her eyes when he spoke, while he seemed to be mouthing words when she was on the stand.

While nothing in the four hours of daughter-father testimony during the hearing led Montgomery to believe Miss Moceanu's father intentionally set out to harm his daughter, he found the Romanian native's actions qualified as abuse under Texas law.

``I do find family violence ... has occurred,'' the judge explained. ``And it is likely to occur in the future.

The 1996 gold medalist recalled how her father pulled her onto a scale a year ago, to weigh the athlete. When he noticed she had gained weight, he began slapping her across the face, she said.

A stony-faced Camelia Moceanu, the gymnast's mother, sat motionless through most of the hearing and was not asked to testify.

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