Free-Range Kids

Autistic Man Jailed for Talking to Kids. Just Talking. That's All.

Daniel Lee accused of 'luring.' Cops say they can't take chances.



A man with autism is being held on $100,000 bail for talking to some children.

The man, Daniel Lee, 26, of Wayne, Pennsylvania, spoke to a group of three siblings—ages 8, 9, and 10—last week, asking them about their school and telling them he was on his way to a cabin in the woods. It's unclear if he told the kids he wanted them to join him or not. (News accounts differ: See this and this.)

He walked off then found and talked to the kids again 20 minutes later near Wayne Elementary School, whereupon the children's mom saw him and called the police. The police found the man in just two minutes.

Why so fast? My guess is because he was not a crafty creep trying to elude the authorities. He is a man with a disability that makes it hard for him to interact like a "normal" man around kids, which apparently means never interacting with them at all and instead running in the opposite direction screaming, "Get away! I hate kids! I am not a predator!"

Now, WPVI reports,  Lee is in jail, "charged with Attempting to Lure Children into a structure, which is in reference to his statements about a cabin, corruption of the morals of a minor, and harassment."

Corruption of morals? Really? How, exactly? He doesn't seem to have said anything salacious. And police say that at no time did Lee make any physical contact or even attempt to make physical contact with the children. Yet here's how the news anchor played up the story:

The big story on Action News tonight is word of an attempted luring at a Radnor Township school and police have a suspect in custody.

My God, they make it sound as if the kids just barely escaped a depraved menace. As Lee's mom explained to the reporter—and police—Daniel has autism, and sometimes likes to talk to kids.

But, WPVI reports, "The police say…they can't take any chances." After all, here's a grown man, living at home, with a part time job at a movie theater. Why cut him any slack?

A psychiatric evaluation will be performed on Daniel, and if it's determined that his parents are not making up their son's diagnosis, perhaps the charges will be dropped.

But shouldn't the charges be dropped for anyone facing such an accusation? Is it really a crime to talk to kids about a cabin in the woods if you never touch or attempt to touch or grab them? Wouldn't that make it a crime to read "Little Red Riding Hood" to a kid who isn't your own?

Daniel's mom said that she will teach Daniel that what he did was wrong. Who will teach the police that it's wrong to throw a man in jail when he clearly has special needs and hasn't done anything more than talk to some neighborhood kids?