Mom Got Drunk With Her Two-Year-Old

     Police say a Massachusetts woman allowed her 2-year-old daughter to sip her margarita at a restaurant and poured some of it into the girl’s sippy cup. Forty-one-year-old Sheldy Nelson of Lynn, Massachusetts pleaded not guilty on Feb…

     Police say a Massachusetts woman allowed her 2-year-old daughter to sip her margarita at a restaurant and poured some of it into the girl's sippy cup. Forty-one-year-old Sheldy Nelson of Lynn, Massachusetts pleaded not guilty on February 24, 2015 to child endangerment in a Salem district court. She was charged in connection with the August 2014 incident. The judge set her bond at $1,000.

     A witness told police that Nelson ignored two warnings from the restaurant staff to stop giving her daughter sips of the alcohol. Both the mother and her daughter appeared lethargic and were taken to a hospital where medical personnel found alcohol in the toddler's system. Police found the sippy cup in Nelson's bag. It smelled of alcohol. The girl was placed in state custody. [In July 2015, the judge agreed to drop the charges against Nelson if she took a parenting class and agreed to random drug testing for a period of three months.]

"Mom Let 2-Year-Old Sip Margarita," huffingtonpost.com, February 28, 2015 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Lenient Judge

     On June 14, 2014, Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto was playing a video game in his parents’ garage in Santa Ana, California. A three-year-old girl, a relative visiting the home with her mother, wandered into the garage and encountered Rojan…

     On June 14, 2014, Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto was playing a video game in his parents' garage in Santa Ana, California. A three-year-old girl, a relative visiting the home with her mother, wandered into the garage and encountered Rojano-Nieto.

     Sexually aroused by the toddler, the 20-year-old Rojano-Nieto pulled down her pants and began sodomizing her. He stopped and put his hand over the victim's mouth when the girl's mother, calling for her, jiggled the handle to the locked garage door. When the concerned mother left the house to search for her daughter at a neighbor's place, Rojano-Nieto continued the sexual assault.

     When finished with the little girl, Rojano-Nieto unlocked the garage door and let her back into the house. After her daughter complained of pain shortly after the sexual attack, the mother figured out what happened and called the police.

     On December 3, 2014, a jury found the defendant guilty of one count of sodomy of a child under ten and one count of lewd acts upon a child under fourteen. (Rojano-Nieto had forced the little girl to touch his penis.) The conviction meant that the guilty man would receive the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life.

     On April 3, 2015, Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly shocked everyone familiar with this case by ignoring California's statutory minimum punishment for this man's sex offenses by sentencing Rojano-Nieto to just ten years in prison.

     The judge, perhaps aware that his ruling would create an angry backlash, carefully laid out his sentencing rationale in writing. According to this southern California judge, "The facts [of this case] don't support there was any violence or callous disregard for the victim's well-being."

     Huh? No violence? Did this girl consent to being sodomized? Did she participate in her own victimization by flaunting herself in the garage? Good heavens.

     Judge Kelly noted that the defendant had not sought out or stalked his victim. Moreover, he now felt  really bad about what he had done to her. Sure he did, but so what?

     The judge, in defending his sentence, wrote: "He [Rojano-Nieto] reacted to a sexual urge and stopped almost immediately." According to Judge Kelly, while the little girl was sodomized by a 20-year-old man, she had not been seriously injured and was therefore "headed for a normal life."

     Judge Kelly had been on the bench in Orange County for fifteen years. How could that be?

     Not content to blame the toddler for her victimization, the judge tried to illicit sympathy for this sex offender by revealing that he had grown up in a "dysfunctional" family with "disruptional abuse." What the hell does that mean? "Disruptional" isn't even a word. This upbringing, according to the judge, had made Rojano-Nieto "insecure, socially withdrawn, and extremely immature." This background had also turned him into a dangerous sexual pervert who should, for the rest of his life, never be around children.

     Orange County Deputy District Attorney Tony Rackauckas responded to Judge Kelly's disturbing decision by announcing his office will appeal Rojano-Nieto's sentence. Referring to the defendant, the prosecutor said, "He's a grown man. He knowingly [actually intentionally] committed this terrible crime and should pay the price."

     Public outrage over the pedophile's light sentence led to a grass roots effort to recall the judge. On December 31, 2015, the bid to have Judge Kelly removed from the bench failed when the recall supporters were unable to collect the minimum 90,829 signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

    Judges with the 4th District Court of Appeals, in the spring of 2017, reversed Judge Kelly's sentence and ordered that Rojano-Neito be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

NYPD Probing Officers’ Seizure of Child from Mother

Video of the incident went viral on social media. Two agency “peace officers” forced a woman to the ground and removed her one-year-old child from her arms. Police Commissioner James O’Neill called the incident “very disturbing.”

Two New York City “peace officers” were placed on modified duty Monday after they forced a woman holding a one-year-old to the ground at a city agency’s office and removed the boy from her arms with the help of New York police officers, reports the Wall Street Journal. The peace officers work for the city’s Human Resources Administration, and were assigned to a Brooklyn office that administers food stamps.  Cellphone video of the incident went viral on social media, prompting demands for a probe into the officers’ actions from politicians, lawyers and advocates. Jazmine Headley, 23, was arrested after the incident on Friday and charged with resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration and trespassing. The city’s child welfare agency took her son and placed him with a relative.

The cellphone video begins with Headley on the ground, cradling her child and shouting, “They’re hurting my son,” as the officers attempt to pull him away. A raucous crowd of bystanders surround the officers, and at one point, an NYPD officer points a stun-gun at onlookers. Police Commissioner James O’Neill said police are reviewing video of the incident, which he described as “very disturbing.” He said, “It was obviously a very chaotic situation, you can see that in the video. And we have to see what the decision-making process was.” Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees the agency, said he is “deeply troubled” by the incident and directed de-escalation training for the peace officers and security staff. Headley wemt to the agency to learn why she stopped receiving government assistance with her child care. When there were no seats available, she sat on the floor, prompting a security guard to tell her to move.

from https://thecrimereport.org

911 Is For Emergencies, Not Child Raising

      In March 2013, 27-year-old Melissa Townsend, a resident of Indian Harour Beach, a small community on southern Florida’s Atlantic coast, called 911 with a less than urgent problem. Her young children were misbehaving. To the dispatc…

      In March 2013, 27-year-old Melissa Townsend, a resident of Indian Harour Beach, a small community on southern Florida's Atlantic coast, called 911 with a less than urgent problem. Her young children were misbehaving. To the dispatcher, Townsend said, "I need a police officer to scare the shit out of my kids. They need to learn respect, and they need to learn that people in law enforcement have authority. They need to learn that lesson."

     The 911 dispatcher replied, "Okay. But we're not coming out to raise your kids for you."

     Ignoring the dispatcher's response, Townsend said, "They need to learn that. You know what I mean?"

     The dispatcher, who probably wasn't sure what was going on in this caller's mind, sent police officers to her house on the chance there was some kind of emergency. The officers rolled up to the dwelling to find the young mother intoxicated. Because Townsend was on probation, and not allowed to consume alcohol, the officers took her into custody for the probation violation. That's when all hell broke out.

     Ignoring her own advice to her kids about respecting law enforcement authority, Townsend resisted arrest, and in the process, kicked one of the officers in the groin.

     At the police lockup, Townsend, still out of control, repeatedly banged her head against the jail wall, and had to be taken to the hospital. She was charged with child neglect (being drunk) and battery of a police officer.

     What started out as a silly 911 call turned into something more serious. Townsend, for reasons that went beyond her intoxicated emergency call, eventually lost custody of her children. (I have not been able to determine the disposition of Townsend's probation violation and police assault cases. It would not be unreasonable to assume, however, that she ended up i

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Home Alone in Manchester, New Hampshire

     In July 2014, Jerusalem Monday, his wife and three of their children, left their apartment in Manchester, New Hampshire for a one-month visit to Nigeria, Africa. They left their twin 9-year-old boys in the care of Jerusalem’s 25-yea…

     In July 2014, Jerusalem Monday, his wife and three of their children, left their apartment in Manchester, New Hampshire for a one-month visit to Nigeria, Africa. They left their twin 9-year-old boys in the care of Jerusalem's 25-year-old brother, Giobari Atura who, according to the plan, had agreed to temporarily move into the apartment with the boys.

     Giobari Atura, instead of taking up residence with his charges, told his nephews that he'd stop by their apartment three times a week to bring them food and see how they were doing. As it turned out, the uncle didn't even keep that promise. This became a real problem when the parents didn't come home in a month as planned. By November 2014, five months after they left the country, they were still in Nigeria.

     The boys took care of themselves. On school days they got up in time to get on the bus. They ate breakfast and lunch at the school. The kids had no food in the apartment and didn't have access to a phone.

     Someone at the boys' elementary school got wind of their plight and called the State Division of Children, Youth and Families. After a social worker with the agency spoke with the twins, she notified the Manchester Police Department and took the twins into protective custody.

     Detectives reached out to the parents in Nigeria who said they had been delayed in Africa due to illness and passport problems. They promised to return home within a couple of weeks. Mr. Monday said that his brother had been assuring him telephonically that the boys were fine. The father said he had no idea his sons had been living alone in the apartment.

     The abandoned boys told detectives how they had managed to get by on their own. They said they had been lonely, however. And they missed their family.

     In December 2014, Hillsborough County prosecutor Michael Valentine charged Giobari Atura with the misdemeanor offense of endangering the welfare of a child. The judge set his bail at $500. (I could not find a disposition of the Atura case. He had been scheduled for trial in August 2015.)

     Upon the parents return to the U.S. in December 2014, they gained custody of the twins. The local prosecutor decided not to charge them with a crime.

    

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

#MeToo, Sex Offenders And Probation

Highlights Buzzfeed provides an article stating that a fraction of sex offenders get probation. In my experience, most on sex offender registries got probation. How do criminal justice reformers reconcile themselves with no incarceration for sex offenders and the #MeToo movement? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations […]

The post #MeToo, Sex Offenders And Probation appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Highlights Buzzfeed provides an article stating that a fraction of sex offenders get probation. In my experience, most on sex offender registries got probation. How do criminal justice reformers reconcile themselves with no incarceration for sex offenders and the #MeToo movement? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations […]

The post #MeToo, Sex Offenders And Probation appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

#MeToo, Sex Offenders And Probation

Highlights Buzzfeed provides an article stating that a fraction of sex offenders get probation. In my experience, most on sex offender registries got probation. How do criminal justice reformers reconcile themselves with no incarceration for sex offenders and the #MeToo movement? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations […]

The post #MeToo, Sex Offenders And Probation appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Highlights Buzzfeed provides an article stating that a fraction of sex offenders get probation. In my experience, most on sex offender registries got probation. How do criminal justice reformers reconcile themselves with no incarceration for sex offenders and the #MeToo movement? Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations […]

The post #MeToo, Sex Offenders And Probation appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Appeals Court Limits Texas Foster Care Reforms

A federal appeals panel ruled 2-to-1 that Texas wrongly exposed children in foster care to physical and psychological harm but said remedies ordered by a federal trial judge went too far.

The state of Texas has failed to address severely overburdened caseworkers, routinely exposing children in foster care to physical and psychological harm, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. Even so, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said a federal judge went too far when she ordered Texas to make sweeping changes to its foster care system, including a cap on the number of children overseen by each caseworker and a ban on foster children sleeping in state offices, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Writing for a 2-to-1 majority, Judge Edith Brown Clement said that while the U.S. Constitution protects foster children from persistent threats of injury, aggressive verbal bullying and attacks on their emotional well-being, “incidental psychological injury”  does not rise to the level of a “substantive … violation.”

Many fixes ordered by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi went beyond the Constitution’s requirements, reflecting instead the “best practices” identified by child-welfare specialists, Clement wrote. “The Fourteenth Amendment does not entitle plaintiffs to receive optimal treatment and services, nor does it afford them the right to be free from any and all psychological harm at the hands of the State,” she said. The appeals court voided an order that would have immediately cut workloads to no more than 14 to 17 foster children per caseworker. Jack noted that high caseloads led “numerous” foster children to have no contact with caseworkers for months at a time. Clement said the requirement would create havoc, creating a “deluge” of paperwork and forcing Texas to redistribute cases in ways that would be destabilizing for all involved, including the children. Dissenting Judge Patrick Higginbotham said, “This was a remedy necessary in response to an agency the State has been unable to tame for more than 20 years.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Pope Calls Meeting to Discuss Protecting Minors

Pope Francis summoned to Rome next February the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences for a meeting focused on protecting minors. The pontiff is dealing with a global clerical sexual abuse crisis and explosive accusations of a cover-up that have shaken his papacy and the entire Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis summoned to Rome the presidents of the world’s bishops conferences for a meeting focused on protecting minors, the Vatican announced on Wednesday. The pontiff is wrestling with a global clerical sexual abuse crisis and explosive accusations of a cover-up that have shaken his papacy and the entire Roman Catholic Church, the New York Times reports. The meetings will be held from Feb. 21 to 24. The announcement was made on the eve of a meeting in the Vatican on Thursday between the pope and American bishops, including Cardinal Daniel  DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Francis’ leading adviser on the issue of sexual abuse.

The Americans seeking answers from the pope and a full investigation into why one of their most prominent colleagues was allowed to ascend to a top position in the American church, despite allegations that he had sexually abused seminarians. Reports of abuse by that prelate, Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., led to his resignation as cardinal. Subsequent accusations, in a bombshell letter by the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accused Francis of lifting sanctions against the American that had been put in place by Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Many survivors of abuse, and people who campaign on their behalf, have lamented that the letters and the power struggles in the Vatican have eclipsed the central issue of protecting children from abuse within the church. The February meetings that Francis called are intended to put the issue front and center again.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Should Religion Ever Be a Defense in the Death of a Child?

In the current political climate, the apparently growing deference to religious beliefs may signal a rise in their successful use during trials. TCR’s legal columnist warns the result could be more children dying unnecessarily.

On Aug. 2, 10-month-old Mary Anne Welch was found dead in her crib in her Michigan home. An autopsy determined that she died from malnutrition and dehydration “due to neglect by adult care givers.” So, the police arrested her parents, Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari, on charges of felony murder and first-degree child abuse.

A tragic story, but sadly not as uncommon as we would like.

What makes this case somewhat unusual, however, is the parents’ defense: They claim that they didn’t seek medical attention for their daughter partly for religious reasons.

seth welch

Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari. Credit: Kent County Jail

Fusari told detectives that although she and her husband had noticed a change in Mary Anne’s physical appearance at least one month before her death, they didn’t reach out for medical help for fear of having the children removed by Child Protective Services. She linked their motives to “lack of faith and trust in the medical services and religious reasons.”

On his Facebook page, Welch quoted the Bible in explaining why he didn’t vaccinate his children, saying “The righteous shall live by faith. It’s God who is sovereign over disease and those sorts of things and ultimately death.”

Although this is a claim most closely associated with Christian Scientists, who rely on prayer rather than medicine, believers in other religions have also tried to use their beliefs as a defense in criminal court. Usually these religions have faith-healing as one of their core tenets.

For example, the Followers of Christ, a reclusive Pentecostal sect based primarily in Idaho and Oregon, also practices faith healing. In 2015, a state task force found that the child mortality rate for the Followers of Christ between 2002-2011 was 10 times that of Idaho as a whole.

The Church of the First Born is another Pentecostal sect that is against medical treatment. In defense of its faith-healing practices, the church cites James 5:14: “If any be sick, call for the elders of the church, let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

If an adult follower of any of these religions chooses faith healing over medical treatment, there’s no issue. After all, if a grownup chooses to rely on prayer instead of antibiotics, surgery and the like, they’re only endangering themselves.

But issues do arise when adult believers prevent their minor children from getting medical attention due to their own religious beliefs. In such cases, the children have no choice or say in the matter─and it’s their lives that are at stake.

Whether a parent’s religious beliefs can be used as a defense to neglect, endangerment or even death of a child was addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944.

In Prince v. Massachusetts, the Court held that the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose a child to communicable disease, ill health or death. “Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children,” explained the Court.

That should be the end of the issue, right? Unfortunately, no.

In 1974, President Nixon signed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act into law. Possibly due to the influence of John Ehrlichman and J.R. Haldeman─both of whom were Christian Scientists─the law has a provision that protects parents who believe that prayer is the only way to cure illness.

Even though the Act has been amended several times since then, it still provides that nothing in this Act shall be construed:

  • as establishing a federal requirement that a parent or legal guardian provide a child with any medical service or treatment against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian; and
  • to require that a state find, or to prohibit a state from finding, child abuse or neglect in cases in which a parent or legal guardian relies solely or partially upon spiritual means rather than medical treatment, in accordance with the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian.

In fact, a surprisingly high number of states have provisions in their civil and/or criminal laws that specifically allow defendants to rely on religion as an excuse in various contexts for failing to provide medical care for their children.

The infographic below from ChildUSA, a non-profit that promotes justice for victims of child abuse and neglect, shows the types of religious exemptions in each state.

tableAs you can see, the scope of the religious exemptions in state law pertaining to sick and injured children varies widely.

Some states protect parents from being declared negligent under civil law solely because they opted to provide spiritual treatment instead of medical treatment to their children, while others provide a religious exemption to criminal liability. In some states, the criminal exemption applies only to misdemeanors; but in others, it can be used as a defense to felonies, including homicide.

The criminal law provisions often have three key components:

  1. The defendant must have been pursuing spiritual treatment in lieu of medical treatment;
  2. That spiritual treatment must have been provided in accordance with the principles of a recognized religion; and
  3. Such treatment must have been performed by an accredited practitioner.

Like any laws, these provisions are subject to change. In some cases, a spate of deaths of children that could have been prevented by proper medical care─and often the intense media scrutiny of these tragedies─have led to the amendment or removal of these provisions.

For instance, because of the long history of child deaths associated with Followers of Christ in Oregon, the state legislature removed faith healing as a defense for all homicide charges in 2011.

As to the death of Mary Anne Welch, Michigan’s criminal law does not contain a religious exemption or defense. If it did, such a defense would be unlikely to help her accused parents, who didn’t try to treat her through prayer or faith healing; they apparently did nothing.

In states without religious exemptions in their criminal laws, officials may still be reluctant to charge grieving parents with the death of a child because of the optics. Even when prosecutors do file charges against the parents, the results are mixed.

Sympathy for the parents’ loss may sway jurors into acquitting.

For example, in 2008, 15-month-old Ava Worthington died at home in Oregon of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection. Her parents and other members of their church, the Followers of Christ, prayed for her recovery and conducted faith-healing rituals, but they never sought medical treatment or called 911 when she stopped breathing.

Prosecutors charged her father and mother with second-degree manslaughter and criminal mistreatment. A jury acquitted the mother of both charges and convicted the father of only criminal mistreatment, a misdemeanor.

After the verdict, the jurors explained that they tried to look at the circumstances from the parents’ perspective and personal values. The foreman said, “They’re good parents who tried everything they knew in their heart. … They thought what they did was working.”

Similar feelings may even influence a judge as to sentencing should the parents be convicted.

For example, in 2009, Herbert and Catherine Schaible lost two-year-old Kent to pneumonia. The parents, who are Pentecostal, said that medicine violates their religious beliefs. For Kent’s death, the judge merely sentenced them to 10 years’ probation and ordered them to seek medical care if another one of their children became sick.

It was only after a second son, eight-month-old Brandon, also died from pneumonia under similar circumstances that the Schaibles were sentenced in 2014 to 3.5-7 years in jail after they pled no contest to third-degree murder.

When sentencing the Schaibles to prison for Brandon’s preventable death, the judge said, “You’ve killed two of your children…not God, not your church, not religious devotion — you.”

According to a 1998 study, 172 children died between 1975-1995 who were denied medical treatment because of their parents’ religious beliefs. In 140 of those cases, the children died from conditions for which survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90 percent.

Advocates of the First Amendment argue that provisions in civil and criminal law that protect faith healing are necessary to ensure freedom of religion. But such provisions essentially give parents with religious objections to modern medical care the right to let their children unnecessarily suffer and even die without such care.

In this day and age, it’s simply crazy that children in the U.S. have been allowed to die from treatable conditions such as diarrhea, diabetes, appendicitis, sepsis and various infections─and even crazier that their parents could get a free pass.

We wouldn’t allow a group to sacrifice a virgin to their god in the name of religious freedom. How is it any different to allow the very individuals responsible for the safekeeping and welfare of their offspring to intentionally prevent those children from getting lifesaving treatment?

No one can reasonably object to parents complementing appropriate medical treatment for their children with faith healing. But we should object─and object loudly─when parents substitute prayer for drugs, anointing with oil for surgery or any religious rite for a scientifically-based medical procedure.

But in the current political climate, there seems to be a growing deference to religious beliefs. Could we see a rise in the use of this defense─and in its success? Perhaps.

In some cases, doctors and hospitals have gone to court, asking judges to intervene and allow them to provide medical care to sick children despite their parents’ religious objections. If courts get more conservative, we might see more such orders being denied and thus more children dying unnecessarily.

In May 1995, Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Robin Barton

Robin L. Barton

Our society’s soul will be black indeed if we continue to allow parents to put their religious beliefs before the health and wellbeing of their children.

Robin L. Barton, a legal journalist based in Brooklyn, NY, is a former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and a regular columnist for The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org