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Fanning kids to remain in mother's custody

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Gwinnett Superior Court judge on Wednesday ruled the three children of Johnny and Lesley Fanning can remain in their mother's custody for the time being, despite a series of high-profile incidents involving the embattled couple.

Johnny and his mother, former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter, have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a government bribery scandal. While waiting to report to prison, Johnny was arrested Oct. 5 on charges he attacked his wife in the Dacula home they have shared.

Four days later, Johnny's younger sister, Jennifer Limon, a mother of two from Suwanee, filed a motion for temporary custody of the Fanning's three children, ages 10, 9 and 5. Limon cited a Sept. 5 drug test showing Lesley had tested positive for cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamine -- a week before her arrest for allegedly trying to bring a loaded handgun into a previous custody hearing.

"I feel that both parents, although they love their children very much, just aren't fit (for parenting) at this time," Limon testified Wednesday.

Lesley's attorney, Jarrod Oxendine, countered that by saying with Johnny behind bars, the dangerous element had been extracted from his children's lives. The positive drug test results for Lesley were dated, Oxendine argued. She was scheduled to have completed a rehab program but was knocked off track by her husband's most recent physical abuse, he said.

"Johnny is a bad apple," Oxendine said outside the courtroom.

Judge Michael C. Clark granted Limon's motion to intervene in the case, but whether or not she'll be granted temporary custody of the children was left to be decided at a future hearing, which hasn't been scheduled. In the meantime, Clark ordered that Johnny and his wife's boyfriend, Mark Anthony, can have no contact with the children.

"You guys have had a lot of excitement the last couple of weeks," Clark scowled from the bench.

Lesley told the judge the Division of Family and Children Services has been involved since one child made an outcry at school that he wasn't comfortable with Anthony being at his home.

In addition to Johnny's disposed federal case, he and his wife have two criminal cases pending in Gwinnett courts.

Before the handgun incident, Lesley was under indictment for felony aggravated assault for allegedly stabbing her husband in the hand with garden sheers during a fight in January. Battery, obstruction of a 911 call and cruelty to children (committing violence in front of a child) charges against Johnny in that case are also pending.

Lasseter attended the hearing and was expected to testify in support of her daughter taking custody of her son's children. But Clark made his decision as Limon, the first witness, was testifying.

Oxendine said Lesley continues to live at the family home in Dacula with the children and is a few classes shy of a degree from Brenau University.