Free-Range Kids

This Mom Beat Ridiculous 'Child Neglect' Charges, But Life Is Still Tough

What happened after the charges were dropped.

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Nicole Gainey
tcpalm.com

Last summer, Florida mom Nicole Gainey was arrested, handcuffed, taken to the local jail, fingerprinted, and held for seven hours for the "crime" of letting her 7-year-old son walk half a mile to the local park. She faced a possible $5,000 fine and five years in jail, but thanks to the Rutherford Institute and lawyer Brian H. Bieber, prosecutors dropped the charges.

Her legal ordeal may have ended months ago, but the resulting emotional and financial troubles are ongoing. Gainey has struggled to keep a job and her son, now 8, has issues of his own. Here is a note from her (edited down):

Dear Lenore: I am the mother that got arrested July 26 for letting my son son walk to the park that is closer than his school by himself, and since my arrest our lives have changed for the worse.

My son was 7 at the time, now he's 8. He walked to our neighborhood park half mile from my home on a Saturday afternoon about 4 p mfor an hour. He had his own cell phone, he had been going there all that summer, and some nosy busybody at the community pool that's on the way called the cops, due to him looking too young to be by himself.

So then the police picked up my son at the playground and placed him in the cop car while they went to talk to the people at the pool. Then they came to my home and never told me he was in back of the car, and arrested me. It wasn't until they were putting me in the back of the car that I found out that my son was in there this whole time, like he was a criminal.

As he got out & walked past me he tells me, "I'm sorry mommy. I wanted to go play at the park"—thinking it was his fault. Since then, the charge was not filed but I can not get a job anywhere, I think due to this, and I am struggling very bad. Also my son used to be a carefree outgoing little boy. Everything has changed.

Thank you for sharing my story when it happened. A lot of readers were on my side. Well, I was wondering if you will put my Go Fund Me link on your page. If anyone can help even a small bit, my children and I will be very grateful.  Please tap to donate.

Let me reiterate—again—that the reason this story went national is that it's rare for parents to face consequences this horrifying. I publish stories like this for two reasons: to support the parents, and to incite the kind of national outrage needed to pressure the cops to stop arresting perfectly responsible moms and dads.

free-range-kids

The same way crazy stories about kids getting suspended for Pop Tart guns and sporks have made Americans deeply skeptical of zero tolerance laws, stories of parents arrested for giving their kids a bit of freedom have made the country start wondering: Why is the government telling loving parents how to raise their kids?

So do no freak out about possibly getting arrested if you send your kids outside. The odds are vastly on your side. And so, increasingly, is the rest of the country.

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  1. National outrage won’t do it.

    Both the busybody neighbor and the cops need to face repercussions for their actions. Until then, expect more of the same.

    1. I agree. Can there be restitution made in cases like this- for the problems that the accused face even when charges are dropped or they are found to be not guilty?

      1. Yeah, find a greedy lawyer who can adequately quantify the damages incurred and go after them.

        1. what kind of door would that open? could everyone arrested and not charged/found not guilty be entitled to damages from the state/false witnesses?

          1. could everyone arrested and not charged/found not guilty be entitled to damages from the state/false witnesses?

            Feature, not bug.

            Unfortunately, anyone who reports child abuse is completely immunized in most states, even if they are made falsely, maliciously, and repeatedly.

            What’s coming, maybe not soon, but coming, is self-help. When the State fails in its most basic functions, people will take that into their own hands.

            If this happened to me, and I had a name, that person would suffer.

            1. “If this happened to me, and I had a name, that person would suffer.”

              Just to point out to anyone in doubt, the Colonel’s words are not to be taken literally.

              1. They would only figuratively suffer?

              2. Yes. Yes, they are meant to be taken literally.

            2. Yes, feature not bug.

              An arrest without consequences for wrongness is what leads to corruption. The arrestor is basically saying “I think this person screwed up, and I want them to suffer the consequences.” Without consequences for a false arrest, there is no accountability. The arrestor needs some skin in the game.

              Every arrest which does not result in conviction should rebound upon those who tried to get the conviction — the arrestor, prosecutor, everybody. They should all put their own easy life on the line, be prepared to face all the same repercussions they put the arrestee through. If the arrestee was in jail for months awaiting trial, the arrestee and prosecutor should spend the same amount of time out of work, away from family, and subject to the same abuse from other prisoners.

          2. Why not. Wrongful death lawsuits drowning municipal govts in red ink seem to be the only hope of turning the tide of police brutality, so why not lesser offenses.

            1. Why not. Wrongful death lawsuits drowning municipal govts in red ink seem to be the only hope of turning the tide of police brutality, so why not lesser offenses.

              It’s worked well so far.

          3. could everyone arrested and not charged/found not guilty be entitled to damages from the state/false witnesses?

            Um…

            Yes?

            These assholes arrest first and prove later. It should be the other way around. If they don’t have an airtight case, they shouldn’t be arresting you to begin with. That’s part of the problem. They know goddamn well that the arrest, in and of itself, is punishment (hassle, legal fees, missed work…) and can dole it out whenever and against whomever they choose (read anyone not fellating them).

            This attitude needs to be squashed. Cops need to be ground down to the lever they belong. Humble, fallible, accountable public servants.

            1. Let us draft a bill…

              1. Noooo! Fighting to the death is better than another bill!

            2. That’s a good point. On the spot arrests really shouldn’t happen unless they actually see something criminal happening that has to be stopped, like assault or robbery or something. Otherwise, convince a judge that an arrest needs to happen. As it is now, a cop can arrest anyone at any time if they feel like it and will face no consequences.

              1. What are the statutes about children left alone?

                1. What are the statutes about children left alone?

                  Apparently a parent may let their 7 yo go to the park and play unsupervised, as she wasn’t convicted.

                  But your point is legit. If there are statutes (and I’m sure there are) telling parents what’s acceptable child monitoring, they should be abolished. It ain’t a legitimate function of teh gubmint.

                2. From what I have seen, most of them require the child to have been in some actual danger.

              2. Unfortunately, I know first hand that the prosecutors argument is that “the state can’t wait for something bad to happen”. And I quote from my case. There are many, many cases of “protect the children from even GOOD people” because something bad just MIGHT happen. The slippery slope goes both ways, judges! Change needs to happen at all levels of child care across the board to allow for parents to make the decisions for their kids, either directly, or by proxy. If no harm is done, then no one should be charged with harm. Heck we’re now being charged with potential harm! It’s like Minority Report is friggin’ REAL!

          4. slippery slopes go both ways. What kind of door does it open when parents are charged with neglect for letting their kids walk outside.

      2. Sometimes you can get them on false arrest.

    2. I disagree. This one is 100% on the cop. He should have responded to the complaint by telling the busybody neighbor to pound sand. instead he saw and opportunity to run a family and his authority boner took over from there.

      1. run ruin

      2. I disagree sarc, it is on the busybody as well. Yes, the cops can tell them to pound sand, but the first time they do that and it is a legitimate problem that they ignored, the public would call for their heads. Both the cops and the busybody should pay.

        1. Again, I disagree. The cops have a duty to respond to complaints, but they also have a duty to use a little judgement. If anything the cop should have admonished the busybody for being a busybody, and then left it at that.

          the first time they do that and it is a legitimate problem that they ignored, the public would call for their heads

          Doubt it. It happens all the time. Maybe if it was a black kid then the public might cry racism, but otherwise this shit is ignored.

          1. Doubt it. It happens all the time. Maybe if it was a black kid then the public might cry racism, but otherwise this shit is ignored.

            Or a little white girl, then they want heads to roll. How many times have you heard someone say “there ought to be a law.”? Hold the busybodies accountable for crap like this and it will subside. As long as people want this crap, it will stay.

            I agree that the cops are assholes, but people want them to be; as long as they are assholes to someone else.

            1. Being a busybody is not an act of force.

              1. Being a busybody is not an act of force.

                No, but calling the cops is.

                1. Calling the cops for a non-crime is already a crime. That’s why this is all on the cops, not the busybodies. The cops should have admonished the busybody for making a call about a non-crime, and warned them that next time the busybody would be charged with a crime. Everyone goes home safely. The end.

                  1. You may be right sarc, but the shit will not stop as long as busybodies do not face any pushback, and the cops will not be the ones to do that.

                  2. Calling the cops for a non-crime is already a crime.

                    Unless it is a deliberate deception, I don’t think that is the case. But I agree with the rest. It would be good if cops would just tell people that what they are reporting is not something that they can do anything about. It happens from time to time around where I live that someone will call the police because they heard gunshots. And the police usually go and check it out. They should just say “So what? People are allowed to use guns.”

                    1. It would be good if cops would just tell people that what they are reporting is not something that they can do anything about.

                      That’s what the cops did whenever I reported being a victim of a crime, but when there’s no victim the cops suddenly find themselves quite interested.

                    2. Catching burglars and stuff is hard.

                    3. Gunfire is not allowed in the towns I have lived in. They are small, conservative, towns, in places like Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois!

        2. Gentlemen, please. I think there’s enough blame to go around.

          What’s unfortunate is that there aren’t any consequences to go along with the blame.

          1. What’s unfortunate is that there aren’t any consequences to go along with the blame

            Agreed Col.!

          2. And instead of consequences, the police have incentives to do this sort of thing. If something did happen to the kid, they would be blamed if they could have picked him up but didn’t. And nothing happens if they do.

            I don’t really see how the police taking the kid into custody without a good legal reason is not kidnapping. I guess protective custody is a pretty broad concept.

          3. Consequences are racist.

        3. Yes, the cops can tell them to pound sand, but the first time they do that and it is a legitimate problem that they ignored, the public would call for their heads.

          And that calling for their heads would have zero effect. If they can murder with impunity you think something minor like this would stick?

      3. Or the cop could have talked to the kid, asked him if he was OK, if his mom knows where he is/ what he’s doing. Then a short “stranger danger” lecture and give the kid his card in case he needs help later and then leave. IOW “serve and protect”. I know, crazy talk.

        1. What is this “serve and protect” you speak of?

      4. I agree with this. The busybody is banking on the use of force from the state. Had the neighbor stormed across the street and attempted a citizen’s arrest, that might have been different. Instead, the neighbor called on a third party that some should say have a monopoly on violence.

      5. “Authority boner”?!?!
        Bwahahahaha!!
        You don’t mind if I plagiarize that sometime do you?

      6. Cop doesn’t have to tell the busybody to pound sand. He can check it out, discover the kid is fine on his own (even has a cell phone!) and tell the kid to have a nice day.

      7. Cop doesn’t have to tell the busybody to pound sand. He can check it out, discover the kid is fine on his own (even has a cell phone!) and tell the kid to have a nice day.

        1. Or he could tell the busybody to pound sand, and then check the kid out anyway.

    3. I’m sure we will continue to see occasional incidents like this. But what she says abut the rarity of it is also true.

    4. Maybe if we send them to those ‘Adult Fun Camps’ they will be able to let off some steam. Wait, the Cop is having fun doing this. ~ J.Ethan

    5. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing
      http://www.work-cash.com

    6. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing
      http://www.work-cash.com

    7. Both need to face the consequences, but the argument over which only shows the real problem — that only victims should be able to file charges. The busybody wants to complain? Show how the busybody is a victim. The cop wants to enforce a non-victim’s complaint? Burden on the cop to show the busybody lied about being a victim.

  2. The cops need to face repercussions. They don’t have to listen to the busybody.

    1. “We have to take all accusations seriously.”

      Isn’t that the common refrain?

      1. It sure is. Every accusation is an opportunity to abuse authority and ruin a life.

      2. That and “we have to cover our asses”. If they checked on the kid, made sure he was fine and left, but something happened to the kid later, they would probably be blamed for not doing anything.

    2. The cops may be mandatory reporters, which will necessitate a change in policy/legislation.

    3. The cops may be mandatory reporters, which will necessitate a change in policy/legislation.

  3. It may not be widespread, but there’s nothing built into the system that won’t allow the state to do such things whenever it feels like it. I simply do not get why some libertarians worry about the current practices of unlimited government rather than the fact that the government lacks limits. If it can do something, even if it doesn’t, we’re less free and more at risk.

  4. Also my son used to be a carefree outgoing little boy. Everything has changed.

    Has he had any vaccines administered recently? #toomanytoosoon

    1. Jimmy is my hero.

      1. “I’ve been reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Remember, kids. Fight the power! Also, I want to give a little shout out to all my peeps in lockdown, and University of Florida Gators rules! All right, let’s do this.”

    2. It just so happens that I’m watching that on DVD right now (got it from my library, which wisely acquired the series). It’s as funny as I remembered it, and I was thinking the same thing–why doesn’t it get treated as a great sit-com?

      [From the space station episode] Catherine: (reading the news) Tragedy struck today in Sector 9 as rebel terrorists blew up the Death Star killing thousands. The Rebel Alliance, a fringe group of Anti-Empire fanatics, has claimed responsibility for the terrorist act. Fortunately Lord Vader escaped without harm. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims.

      1. I know you’re talking about the show, but there was a great comedian who asked why we didn’t feel for all the subcontractors building the Death Star. Like what about that dude installing a toilet on level 11764… what about his family?

    3. Yeah, that was a good show. Especially before whatshisname got murdered.

      1. Phil Hartman was a great talent.

        1. Yeah. Couldn’t think of his name for some reason. He was great, and the News Radio character was brilliant.

          1. He was just a caveman. Your world frightened and confused him.

          2. I’ve been watching old episodes of the Simpsons, and it makes me really miss Phil Hartman.

            1. He was a really amazing talent. It’s interesting, because he superficially seems like just a useful straight man. But he was far more than that.

              1. I was watching a round table with what I believe were the writers of the Simpsons, and I think it was Conan O’Brien that said that Phil Hartman kind of was that guy he played all the time.

  5. Protip: Move to the poor neighborhoods. In my barrio apt complex in Texas no gives a crap that 8 year olds play soccer on the basketball court until midnight, almost every night of the week.

    Poor people mind their own business b/c we have shit to do and better things to worry about than someone else’s kids.

    1. Ditto when I lived in a blue-collar Baltimore neighborhood.

    2. That and they know better than to call the cops. They understand that doing that is a recipe for someone getting shot or thrown in a cage.

  6. This woman’s arrest is an outrage but why can’t she get a job? There were no charges filed, right?

    I’m a bit prissy about this because I get GoFundMe requests for all kinds of stupid shit – weddings and honeymoons, vacations, graduation presents and I just do not think it is okay to ask people to sponsor or underwrite your life – and that includes raising money to support your kids. This woman hasn’t explained why she can’t get a job. Her GoFundMe page is all about how her mother has cancer.

    I do have sympathy for her false arrest but using that publicity to get money is unseemly.

    1. There’s a spot on many job applications where they ask if you’ve been arrested. Not charged or convicted, but arrested. Answer honestly and you don’t get hired, because many people have this attitude that cops don’t arrest innocent people. They arrest criminals who sometimes beat the rap. Those people don’t ask about convictions, they ask about arrests.

      1. That’s the question apparently being asked a lot these days. Haven’t been asked it on a job app, but a governmental rep asked it to me just a couple years ago. When I questioned the inquisitor’s “official‘s” legal right to even ask such a question the reaction was one of seething arrogance and I was informed I was to answer the question. Seems today we are all guilty. They’ll determine at a time of their own convenience if a crime has been committed in connection to the guilt.

      2. An arrest record is one of the few things employers are allowed to discriminate against under current law. And most people who’ve been arrested were not innocent.

        1. “Most people who’ve been arrested were not innocent.”

          Are you lost?

    2. I think it’s OK to ask for whatever you want to. I’m probably not going to give you anything, but no harm in asking.

    3. “This woman hasn’t explained why she can’t get a job.”

      You need to read her entire post:

      “…this has been a horrific experience for him and myself and my 18yr daughter too, because all her friends were calling her after seeing us on the news asking her questions, I really want a steady job , my name has been tarnished in my town that I’ve grown up in since I was 3 yrs old, I am now 35yr with my 8yr son & 18yr daughter I have always worked my hole life but this situation has really affected us in so many ways, so I am just asking for help to get us caught up til I can find work and help with a hiring a lawyer to sue the cops for doing this to me & my kids….”

      I’ve got a few extra Federal Reserve Notes I can send her way.

    4. Probably becuase before this her kid was a latchkey kid (which should be perfectly acceptable) and now she is terrified to ever leave him alone again (which having had to deal with false child neglect claims before I can’t really blame her for).

    5. This woman’s arrest is an outrage but why can’t she get a job? There were no charges filed, right?

      A good background check shows arrests.

      Plus, by now everybody in town knows she’s a bad mother who abuses her child.

  7. “This woman’s arrest is an outrage but why can’t she get a job? There were no charges filed, right?”

    Well, I suppose that as between an applicant who was once arrested for child abuse and an applicant who wasn’t, an employer will prefer the one who wasn’t arrested.

    And if there were no charges, how does the employer know what that means? It could mean she got away with something. Companies like to winnow out their application pile, and it’s simply more efficient to take the applications of people who were once in trouble with the law and throw those applications in the trash, rather than do a case-by case investigation of whether the arrest was proper or not. There are plenty of applicants who *weren’t* arrested, after all.

    And for some jobs, hiring someone with a history of encounters with the cops – especially child abuse – could lead to legal and PR repercussions. What if the commits a crime on the job and the victim’s lawyer shows that “OMG, you hired this person even though she’s been arrested for *child abuse?!?!?*”

    1. People who have never been arrested have probably gotten away with something too.

      This is probably another problem that would mostly go away if there were fewer stupid, immoral laws.

      1. “People who have never been arrested have probably gotten away with something too.”

        But look at it from the employer’s point of view – if the person was never arrested, they can tell the jury, “we didn’t know this person was a criminal when we hired her!” – but they knew she was arrested and they hire her anyway, they’re taking the risk that this “lack of diligence” will be held against them if the employee commits a crime.

        1. I suppose that makes sense when you have loads of applicants for an unskilled job and just need to reduce the size of the pile. I bet that has more to do with it than actual concerns about liability.

          I sometimes think that there may be an argument to be made for not having arrest records be public until and unless actual court proceedings happen. It was one thing when to get at public records you had to go to the police station or court house. Now with more and more stuff online, it seems kind of wrong to put the mugshots and arrest records of anyone arrested out there for the world to see. Especially given that the people in the greatest need of employment are often also the people who are most likely to get harassed by police and arrested on some bullshit.

          Of course, there are good arguments for why the records should be public as well.

          1. I would hope that journalists would have enough restraint to wait until the outcome of a legal proceeding to name the parties involved, unless it’s a case of special public interest (like a Senator’s corruption trial, etc.).

            Of course, I wouldn’t put *legal* limits on the right to disclose truthful information, and if someone was arrested, it’s truthful to announce the fact.

            But if you insinuate that an arrested person is guilty, and he isn’t…get ready for a lawsuit!

            1. And, yes, it’s probably efficiency in weeding through lots of applications, rather than liability fears. At least in most cases.

  8. The child had a phone the police could have simply called the mother to see if she knew where her son was problem solved. the problem is either the cops just needed something to do that day or all interactions have been so regulated by the nannies that common sense is no longer an option.

    1. Common sense is still an option. People let their kids do things like this all the time without problems. The problem is that any cop can decide at any time not to choose common sense and really fuck with your life.

  9. Oh man, I’m so lucky to have grown up back when parents were allowed to raise their own children. I ran loose a lot, and it made me a better person. Had it happened today and not a half century ago my parents likely would be arrested and I’d be one bitter, mixed up angry child.

    1. It depends a lot on where you are. Lots of places you can still let your kids roam. That’s still the norm where I am.

      1. SWAT team inbound.

        1. Things are shitty enough without exaggerating the problems that we actually have. We’ve fallen a long way, but there is still a long way to go to the bottom.

  10. This is no longer a rare occurrence, sadly.
    A long-time friend of mine had her daughter taken away over a year ago without criminal charges ever being filed. She is currently in a custody battle against the estranged biological father – who never wanted to be involved in the first place – and the CPS agency.

    These people do not need a coherent reason, or even the most basic standard of evidence to take your children. It happens often, and has to be stopped.

    1. I think that depends on what you mean by “rare”. It is hardly a common occurrence, even if it happens way too often.

      I am a bit puzzled as to why the father would be fighting her if he never wanted to be involved.

      1. Custody battles can be extremely complex, and often aren’t about the children, but about punishing the spouse. I’m guessing there’s a semi-trailer full of information we don’t have here.

      2. He was threatened with arrest if he didn’t get involved. Believe me, it’s a story.

  11. The worst part to me is the kid somehow thinking this mess is HIS fault because he just wanted to play at the park. He simply doesn’t have the ability to understand the complex multilayered idiocy that swept up his family other than blaming himself for it.

    His budding curiosity and independence is now stunted because of this. As a father, that would hurt me deeper than anything the state could ever directly do to me.

  12. In hindsight the cop should have asked the boy for his address, taken him there and explained to the mom that some busybody called in a complaint. He could then have suggested that she find out who it was and get the matter straightened out neighbor-to-neighbor.

    1. I’d agree, though the cop should warn her that she could have been arrested and should not do this in the future until the kid is older.

  13. From the link in the original Reason blog post.

    The St. Lucie County State’s Attorney’s office says there is no law that specifies how old a child has to be before he or she can go somewhere unsupervised. It’s done on a case-by-case basis. “

    LOL. Sounds like void for vagueness, no? Not that it will ever be tested if they can ruin someone’s life just by dropping charges.

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