REDWOOD CITY -- The father at the center of the Peninsula stolen yacht kidnapping case claimed Monday in court that he abducted his children to protect them from abuse.

But authorities say they have no evidence Christopher Maffei's allegation is true, and they are moving forward with a variety of felony charges against him, including kidnapping

Maffei made the statement during his first court appearance Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court.

"Judge with all due respect, my children have been put right back in the place where they were being abused," Maffei, 43, told San Mateo Superior Court Commissioner Stephanie Garratt. Maffei went on to say it was the very place he'd taken the children from, before Garratt cut him off.

Maffei faces eight felony charges, including kidnapping and child endangerment, for allegedly snatching his young daughter and son from their mother's South San Francisco home Sept. 4. His effort to allegedly spirit the children away on a stolen yacht ended Friday when he surrendered to authorities and turned over the kids, who were unharmed.

The mother of 3-year-old daughter Brooklynn and 2-year-old son Devin couldn't be reached for comment on the abuse allegations. However, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said the claims are unfounded.

"I have no reason to believe that's true," said Guidotti, who added Maffei is likely laying the foundation for his defense. "I think he is working his case."


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Maffei didn't enter a plea to the charges and Garratt ordered him held in lieu of $500,000 bail. He's due back in court Sept. 17.

A few new details emerged Monday, including that it was a lack of wind that may have led to Maffei being caught off the Monterey County Coast.

After Maffei allegedly stole the yacht, the winds were calm and he used the motor for two days, prosecutors said. The Unleashed, which had been docked at Ballena Isle Marina in Alameda, ran out of gas.

Guidotti said Maffei pulled the stolen 41-foot yacht Unleashed alongside a tuna fisherman early Thursday and tried to buy some fuel 50 miles off Pillar Point harbor in San Mateo County.

The fisherman refused to sell the fuel and instead reported the encounter to authorities later in the day, Guidotti said. The Coast Guard and FBI then began following the Unleashed from a distance. They moved in late Friday, arrested Maffei and turned the children over to their mother Jennifer Hipon, 37, Maffei's ex-girlfriend.

The same day Maffei allegedly took the children, Hipon filed for a restraining order against him. The couple had no formal arrangement for custody, but Maffei had allegedly gotten angry when she declined to let him see the children.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.