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Insisting they did nothing to mislead a Miami-Dade County trial judge, the parents of a 23-year-old woman who vanished during a Caribbean cruise will ask a state appeals panel today to reinstate their dismissed legal claims against Royal Caribbean Cruises. Ronald and Iva Bradley contend the Miami-based cruise line was responsible for the disappearance of their daughter, Amy, who was last seen aboard the line’s Rhapsody of the Seas during a 1998 trip between Puerto Rico and Curacao. But Judge Stuart Simons of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit found the couple had “perpetrated a fraud on the court” by giving false answers to the defense during depositions. The judge found they had failed to disclose contacts with witnesses who contradicted their claims that she had been taken from the ship against her will. The Bradleys insist the judge denied them their day in court. Far from trying to fool the judge, the parents say, they had good reason to believe Amy Bradley was still alive and might be in danger. Their lawyers say that’s why the Bradleys initially withheld information. But in recent months, the appellate courts, particularly the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, have cracked down on lawyers and clients who are found to have tried to mislead judges. In numerous cases, the appeals court has said it will not tolerate such tactics. Consequently, the Bradleys’ lawyers might encounter difficulty trying to convince the panel to rule in their favor. The case on appeal stems from two lawsuits the Bradleys filed in March 1999 against Royal Caribbean. One accused the cruise line of negligence in handling their daughter’s disappearance. The other was for wrongful death, although no evidence has come to light to show that Amy Bradley is dead. Both lawsuits were dismissed in October 2000 by Simons. “The court feels that if it were to allow the plaintiffs’ case to go forth after attempting to perpetrate a fraud on the court, other plaintiffs may be encouraged to attempt to perpetrate frauds as well,” Simons wrote. Lawyers for the Bradleys say there never was any attempt to intentionally hide anything from the court or from Royal Caribbean. If the Bradleys didn’t initially provide information, they say, it was because they were concerned about their daughter’s welfare. Their actions in this case, the lawyers argue, didn’t warrant the dismissal. “There are two important competing interests involved,” said Robert Glazier, a Miami appellate lawyer who represents the Bradleys. “One is that the case should be decided on the merits. The other is that people who engage in fraud shouldn’t be able to avail themselves of the judicial system. It seems to me that in this case, the principle that cases should be decided on the merits should control in light of the extraordinary facts.” The facts of the case read like a James Patterson novel. The mystery of Amy Bradley’s disappearance unfolded on March 21, 1998, when the Bradley family, which included Amy’s parents and her brother, Ronald Jr., flew from their home in Virginia to Puerto Rico for a family vacation. They boarded the Rhapsody of the Seas for a weeklong cruise. On the morning of March 24 the ship arrived in Curacao and Amy Bradley turned up missing. She had last been seen in the wee hours of the morning sleeping on the balcony outside of the family’s cabin. A search of the ship and the waters around Curacao turned up nothing. The Norwegian consulate was summoned in to conduct an inquiry as the ship sails under the Norwegian flag. The FBI and Interpol also investigated. Lawyers for Royal Caribbean have suggested in their brief to the 3rd District Court of Appeal that Amy Bradley might have left of her own volition. The company suggests that she spent the night before her disappearance drinking with other female passengers and talking about an unhappy love affair and jumping from the ship. “The Bradleys were unwilling to consider any obvious solutions, including Amy’s accidental fall or intentional jump from the balcony while inebriated, or her early and voluntary departure from the ship,” writes Lauri Waldman Ross, a Miami appellate lawyer who represents Royal Caribbean, in her brief to the court. Unable to locate Amy, the Bradleys began their own investigation. They gave interviews on several national television shows, including “Inside Edition” and “America’s Most Wanted,” in hopes of finding their daughter. The Bradleys’ story also appeared in People magazine and other publications. It is discussed on numerous missing person Web sites. In their wrongful-death action, the Bradleys spun a tale of intrigue in which they contend that Amy was “forcibly removed from the ship” when it docked in Puerto Rico, and that she was shoved into a waiting taxi against her will. They claimed they learned, through witnesses, that Amy had been sold into white slavery. Although the family received more than 100 tips regarding Amy’s whereabouts, the family initially provided Royal Caribbean with the names of three people who reportedly saw Amy alive five months after her disappearance. They claim they did not include the other sightings because they did not consider them to be significant. However, lawyers for Royal Caribbean contend that it wasn’t until the Bradleys were deposed and later ordered by a judge to provide the court with the remaining evidence that they learned of the Bradleys’ attempt to “sandbag” Royal Caribbean by failing to provide them with all of the information they possessed. Some of it, the line contends, was not favorable to their case. “The Bradleys had given patently false, not piecemeal, interrogatory answers,” writes Waldman Ross in her brief to the appellate court. Andrew Hall, a partner with Hall David and Joseph in Miami who represented the Bradleys at the trial court level, asserts that his clients were completely forthcoming. When ordered by the court, he says, they provided Royal Caribbean with all of the documentation they had collected on their daughter’s disappearance and possible whereabouts. He says Royal Caribbean agreed to give the Bradleys three weeks to provide them with the additional information. Despite the agreement, more than two weeks before the mutually agreed upon deadline would pass, Royal Caribbean moved to dismiss the Bradleys’ complaint. After the case was thrown out, Royal Caribbean asked Judge Simons to impose a $171,000 fine against either Hall or the family. The judge deferred ruling until the appeal was decided. Since Amy Bradley’s disappearance, an Atlanta man has been arrested by federal authorities in Virginia and charged with defrauding the Bradleys by falsely claiming he would locate and rescue her. According to court papers in Richmond, Frank Vernon Jones Jr. was arrested and charged with mail and wire fraud. He allegedly told the Bradleys and the Nation’s Missing Children Organization that he was a former Army special forces officer. Between Sept. 28, 1999, and July 28, 2000, the Bradleys sent him a total of $210,858 to pay for costs associated with finding Amy. At one point, Jones sent the Bradleys a photo he claimed was of Amy. The woman was actually an acquaintance of his and had been taken on a Florida beach. If convicted, Jones faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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