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Joseph Reyes cleared of contempt

A Chicago man who recently won the right to take his 3-year-old daughter to Catholic mass over the objections of her Jewish mother has avoided the possibility of jail in a related criminal case that ended Wednesday.

A Cook County judge found Joseph Reyes, a John Marshall Law School student, not guilty of violating a court order by taking his daughter -- along with a local television crew -- to Holy Name Cathedral before the custody issue had been resolved, Reyes' attorney said. Reyes faced up to six months in jail for the criminal contempt of court charge.

"I'm a happy man today," Reyes said after the verdict. "It's unfortunate I was put in this situation, but to receive the outcome I received was very satisfying."

In a custody case that made national headlines, another judge ruled in April that Reyes may take his daughter to mass, even as the child's mother raises her in the Jewish faith.

Until that point, Reyes and Rebecca Shapiro had spent months locked in a battle over the child's religious upbringing. It started in November 2009, when Reyes had his daughter baptized at a south suburban Catholic church and sent his estranged wife photos of the event.

Shapiro went to court and won a restraining order preventing Reyes from exposing the girl to any religion other than Judaism. While the order was in place, and before the judge's April ruling, Reyes took his daughter to Holy Name, prosecutors alleged.

But Reyes' attorney argued at trial this week that prosecutors couldn't prove definitively that the child in the TV video was actually the couple's daughter. "You couldn't see the kid's face entering the front doors of Holy Name Cathedral," said his attorney, Joel Brodsky.

Neither Shapiro nor her attorneys could be reached for comment Wednesday.