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Wayne Gains Custody of Child From Gionis

Times Staff Writer

Aissa Wayne’s weekend visit with her 2-year-old daughter turned into an indefinite stay Monday when a judge ordered Wayne’s imprisoned ex-husband to turn over temporary custody of the child to Wayne.

The former husband, Pomona orthopedic surgeon Thomas A. Gionis, was given sole custody of the child in January when a judge found that Wayne, daughter of the late film legend John Wayne, was “emotionally immature.”

But the custody arrangement was thrown into question last week when Gionis was arrested on charges that he ordered an attack last year on Wayne and Newport Beach financier Roger W. Luby.

Doctor Remains Jailed

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Gionis remains in custody without bail. A municipal judge ruled last week that the surgeon would pose a flight risk and a danger to Wayne if released. His parents had cared for the child since his arrest.

Wayne, 32, plans to appeal for a new custody hearing in light of the criminal charges against Gionis, 35. She alleges that the charges reveal a violent streak that makes him an unfit parent.

On Monday her attorney, E. Robert Lemkin of Santa Ana, persuaded Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Owen in a meeting in the judge’s chambers to give Wayne custody until the question can be better resolved. A hearing is scheduled for April 26.

Gionis’ attorney, Albert M. Graham Jr., was rebuffed in his attempts to persuade Owen to let the child, Anastasia, remain with her paternal grandparents in San Diego, instead of with Wayne.

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Issue of Visit by Grandparents

The child was with the grandparents at the time of their son’s arrest. Wayne took Anastasia this weekend for her regularly scheduled visit.

Graham said the judge indicated that Gionis’ parents should be allowed to see the child, but he added that the judge issued no formal directive on that subject.

“If Aissa lets that happen (visits by Gionis’ parents), you can knock me over with a feather,” he said.

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Gionis’ attorney also characterized Monday’s custody order as an attempt by Wayne “to capitalize on Dr. Gionis’ unfortunate situation. . . . She’s not looking out for the best interests of this child.”

He maintained that in the 2 months since Gionis won custody of Anastasia, Wayne has repeatedly missed weekend visits.

Wayne was not available for comment on Owen’s decision, but her attorney, Lemkin, said: “She’s elated, absolutely elated. She said her whole world has brightened. . . . She’s obviously a fit parent, and this is the way it should be.”

Wayne did not attend the custody meeting with Owen but did submit to the court a statement that renewed allegations she had made against Gionis in a 1987 bid for custody.

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In the statement, Wayne said Gionis used physical force to threaten her several times and warned her not to try to take the child from him.


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