No charges to be filed in handcuff casePublished 5:11pm Monday, February 14, 2011
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
The mother who handcuffed her 16-year-old son to a chair for a week and confining him to a small room for three weeks will not be criminally charged, Berrien County Prosecutor Art Cotter said in a statement released Monday.
On Feb. 8, Berrien Springs police reported to the victim’s home after he was able to make a phone call to authorities by dragging the chair to which he was handcuffed to a nearby computer while his mother was out picking up his 9-year-old sister.
“While a criminal prosecution would be sustainable under the facts of this case, after considering the interview with this young man and his parents’ openness to counseling, I do not believe it is in his best interests, his family’s interests or the interests of justice to pursue a criminal charge at this time,” Cotter said. “My office has initiated and is pursuing a neglect and abuse petition on behalf of the Department of Human Services against the parents before the Berrien County Family Court.”
In the police report filed by the Berrien Springs police, more details are learned about what police found when they responded to the call.
Upon arrival at the victim’s home, police found the victim’s mother and sister had returned. As they approached the home, the victim exited the home and asked that police tell his mother they needed to speak with him regarding a previous incident of shoplifting which he had been involved in.
During their investigation, police discovered the victim had been being punished by his parents following the shoplifting incident.
Confined to a small room, the victim explained he’d been handcuffed by his mother between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. to a chair during the day and to a desk at night while he slept.
Inside the room where the victim was held, police found the chair, a Bible, a water bottle and a bell he was to ring if he was hungry or needed to use the bathroom. The door was not kept locked, the victim told police, but he did have to drag the chair with him if he were to exit the small room.
A pair of handcuffs and a chain were recovered at the scene.
Police also learned the victim had been kept in the room for three weeks as punishment for shoplifting when his mother found he had snuck an MP3 player into the room and began using the handcuffs.
The victim said there had been no physical abuse except for when his mother had found the MP3 player and reportedly hit him on the wrist four times. The victim also told police his mother had told him his father would hit him when he returned home from Colorado, where he was at the time of the incident.
After further questioning it was determined the victim’s 9-year-old sister had not been given the same types of punishment.
Child Protective Services was called to meet police and the family at the Berrien Springs Oronoko Police Department.
There, police said the victim’s mother told police her son had been exhibiting signs of depression, though he was not acting as though he would be a danger to himself, and that she had handcuffed her son to the chair because he had also was planning to run away. It was a fear of her son running away at night that she said led her to handcuff him to a desk while he slept.
The victim had been grounded since Jan. 17. His mother also admitted to being very angry with him and telling him his father would hit him when he returned home.
Cotter said both parents “acknowledged poor judgment in the use of handcuffs on their son and they expressed a willingness to engage in any family counseling that was requested of them…”
“Handcuffing a child by a parent is never appropriate,” Cotter said. “Whether such an act rises to the level of criminality depends upon the circumstances. I do not find the necessary malice on the part of the parents in this case to justify a charge of child abuse in the 2nd degree.”
An example of that malice, Cotter said, would include actions that could be described as brutal, inhumane, sadistic or in torment.
No physical injury and no apparent mental trauma suffered by the victim was determined during the investigation, he said, adding that handcuffing the child to the desk, described as non-moveable, “did constitute a violation of child abuse in the 4th degree in that it posed an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child, for example in the event of a house fire.”
With no criminal charges filed, the matter will be handled through family court.
Tags: Berrien Springs