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Surrogate Confesses Her Secret : Trial: Anna L. Johnson admits cashing check from unborn child’s parents after she’d decided to seek custody. She denies telling The Times she didn’t feel bonded to baby.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Surrogate mother Anna L. Johnson, who is waging an unprecedented battle for custody of a baby she bore for an infertile couple, testified Wednesday that she accepted payments from the pair even after she secretly decided to keep the child.

Johnson, 29, who has attracted national attention in her effort to win the 3-week-old boy, admitted that she cashed a $2,100 check from Mark and Crispina Calvert in early June and another, for an unspecified sum, in early August, but that she no longer intended to give up the baby.

Johnson’s comments came during aggressive questioning by the Calverts’ attorney, Christian R. Van Deusen. Van Deusen tried to determine the exact point at which Johnson decided to keep the baby, and to imply that she is not telling the truth when she claims she “bonded” to the child early in the pregnancy.

Johnson also admitted that the Calverts had made major payments earlier than required on at least two occasions. One of Johnson’s key claims in trying to win custody of the baby--and one she repeated many times--is that the Calverts breached the $10,000 surrogation contract by consistently paying her late.

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Crispina Calvert took the witnessstand briefly Wednesday to explain her understanding of the contract with Johnson. She stated that Johnson had received legal counseling before signing it.

Johnson, a licensed vocational nurse and single mother, testified on the second day of a hearing to determine whether she can legally be considered the baby’s mother, even though she has no genetic connection to him. The Calverts provided the sperm and egg from which the baby grew.

The proceeding in Orange County Superior Court is now expected to extend into next week. Since the baby’s birth Sept. 19, the Calverts have had temporary custody.

During more than two hours of intense examination by Van Deusen, Johnson denied telling The Times in an interview in early August that she felt no connection to the baby she was carrying because she knew it did not belong to her.

In fact, Johnson told a Times reporter that she did not feel bonded to the child because it was not made from her genetic material.

“If it had been my egg, it would have made a real big difference,” Johnson told The Times. “But with (in-vitro fertilization), there’s no connection to me. . . . There’s been detachment from the baby from Day 1.”

Johnson told The Times that the sole reason she was seeking custody of the baby was that she believed the Calverts had lost interest in him and would make unfit parents. Her aim, she said, was to protect the child from being put into a bad environment.

Since she filed suit Aug. 13, Johnson has concentrated much more on her “bonding” to the baby, contending she should keep him because the act of carrying and delivering him makes her the child’s mother. She has virtually dropped any discussion of whether the Calverts are unfit parents.

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Commenting on that change during a court recess Wednesday, her lawyer, Richard C. Gilbert, said: “Did you ever hear of a Trojan horse?”

On Wednesday, Johnson admitted she “might have” told someone else earlier in the pregnancy that she had not become attached to the baby, but if she did say that, it was because she was “in a state of denial,” struggling with a bond she had developed even though she had signed a contract promising to surrender the child.

Van Deusen had Johnson describe a series of events purportedly showing that, for many months after she became pregnant, she did not consider the child to be her own.

He introduced a sonogram picture, taken Feb. 10, less than a month after Johnson was implanted with the Calverts’ embryo. Johnson scribbled on the photo, “Cris’ baby, Day 23,” and pinned it up in the nurses’ lounge of the hospital where both she and Crispina Calvert worked.

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The baby’s court-appointed lawyer, Harold LaFlamme, also questioned Johnson about when she came to feel the baby was hers. He pointed to language she used in a July 23 letter to the Calverts, in which she refers to the fetus as “the child of someone else” and uses the phrase, “before your child is born.”

“I wrote the letter, yes, but in the state of mind I was in, I was confused, I was anxious and I was desperate,” Johnson testified.

Johnson said that she changed her mind and decided to keep the baby on June 10, at 6:30 p.m., when, she claims, she had to take a taxi to the hospital during a round of premature contractions because Mark Calvert refused to give her a ride. (Calvert denies that Johnson asked him for a ride.)

But in a string of apparent contradictions, Johnson also testified that when she endorsed the June 2 check, she did not intend to give the Calverts their child. She also said that when she wrote the July 23 letter, she intended to surrender the baby. Later, she testified that by that point she was planning to keep it.

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