[Rushtalk] Son Skips Church, Father Arrested for Child Endangerment

Carl William Spitzer IV cwsiv at copper.net
Thu Jul 31 23:02:45 MDT 2014

this much state no one needs.

Son Skips Church, Father Arrested for Child Endangerment

Jordan Richardson


What started out as a normal Sunday morning for Jeffrey Williamson of
Blanchester, Ohio,
 turned into a nightmare when police officers showed up to his front
door and arrested him in front of his family. 
His crime? Child endangerment—as the authorities described it—because
his son skipped church to go play with friends.
 He now faces up to six months in jail.

According to Williamson, the local Woodville Baptist Church sends a van
to his neighborhood twice a week
 to offer free transportation to those interested in attending services.
Williamson’s children ride the van regularly 
on Wednesdays and Sundays. This morning was no different, as his
eight-year-old son Justin and siblings said goodbye
 to their father and left their house to board the van.
One problem: Justin skipped church and went to play instead.

The young boy stayed in the neighborhood to play with friends and then
later ended up at the local Family Dollar store down the road. After
police officers were called to the store by a customer who recognized
Justin, they took him back to his neighborhood where they proceeded to
arrest his father for child endangerment.

Williamson recounted his interaction with the police officer, stating,
“The next thing you know, he comes up to me and he says, ‘You’re under
arrest.’ My kids start crying their eyes out wondering why I’m getting

To make matters worse, as a result of local news coverage of the
event, Williamson was fired from his job and remained unemployed for a
period of time.

The police action had a traumatic impact on Williamson’s children as
well. “Every time that we leave in our car or drive down the street or
something like that, every time they see a cop in Blanchester, they
freak out and say, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, are they going to arrest you?’”
Williamson said.

Child endangerment is prohibited in Ohio under R.C. 2919.22(A), which
states: “No person, who is the parent of achildunder eighteen years of
age, shall create a substantial risk to the health or safety of
thechild, by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.” This
means that if Williamson created or ignored a situation where a
substantial risk of danger existed for his son, he would be liable under
the code provision.

However, Ohio case law specifically requires the element of mens
rea (guilty mind) in order to convict a defendant for endangering a
child. Significantly, in 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court held in State v.
McGee that the existence of a culpable mental state of recklessness is
an essential element of the crime of endangering children under the
statute. Thus, only if prosecutors can prove that Williamson acted
recklessly due to his son’s behavior could a conviction be possible.

But should this case even make it to court?

Common sense should be applied to this situation. Young children are
especially prone to play with neighborhood friends, even without their
parents’ permission. More likely than not, we all can remember a time as
children when we disregarded the instructions of our parents and engaged
in youth time play instead. Should our parents have been prosecuted and
put in jail for our misbehavior?

Child neglect and endangerment is a real issue that should be taken
seriously. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that
more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States
every year. But should the sobering reality of actual endangerment be
conflated with a young boy skipping church to go play with friends?

Scant evidence exists to support the notion that Williamson acted
recklessly in this situation. He allowed his son to attend a religious
service, but when Justin strayed from Williamson’s instruction, the
authorities punished the father for the son’s innocent activities and
needlessly escalated the situation into the worst possible outcome.

The haste by the police to arrest Williamson instead of inquiring
further about the situation led to him losing his job, and thus, his
ability to financially provide for those same children. Thankfully,
after a period of unemployment, Williamson was able to find work
elsewhere. But the more important question is whether he can repair his
reputation in the community after this incident.

Skipping church led to young Justin being grounded for his behavior, 
but perhaps the police force in Blanchester, Ohio, should have a
 “come to Jesus” moment, too, and acknowledge that sometimes kids will
be kids.

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