August 20, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Does our system of criminal justice, family courts, police, prosecutors and child welfare agencies separate fathers from their children? Why yes, I believe it does (ABC13, 8/17/17).

A Raleigh, North Carolina father, Victor Alonzo King has five kids, ages 1 to 8. He works for Chipotle earning minimum wage. Disastrously, his wife was just diagnosed with Stage Four cancer. King is struggling. So this past Tuesday, he left his children with a neighbor as he’d done in the past, and headed off to work to earn the family’s only income.

King is now in the Raleigh jail on $25,000 bail that, in his situation, he can’t possibly raise. What offense did he commit to find himself in jail and unable to get out? None whatsoever. That’s right, none at all.

It seems the neighbor who was supposed to be watching King’s kids left them alone for an undisclosed period of time. Another neighbor called the police to report the children by themselves and, according to police, that means King committed a crime. Not the babysitter mind you, King.

So King arrived in court and explained his situation to the judge. Now, to many of us, the mere facts of his life, his kids’ lives and his wife’s life would pretty much dictate that King be released on his own recognizance so he can continue caring for his wife, his kids and earning a living.

But the prosecutor opposed King’s release.

His bond is $25,000 which could keep him behind bars and out of work, and when the prosecutor told the judge King has a 2011 conviction in California for child cruelty, the judge refused to lower his bond.

Other news sources say King was only charged with child cruelty, but even if the prosecutor was correct, it escapes me why a six-year-old offense should, all of a sudden render King such a threat to his kids – or someone – that he can’t be released to care for them and his wife. After all, if his past were such a problem, why did it suddenly become one on Tuesday?

In court Wednesday, King told a judge he is the sole provider for his children and his wife is very ill.

"Two weeks ago my wife was diagnosed with stage four cancer. And I'm practically like her only way to pay for all of her medical bills. So I was wondering if I could get out early and I can still work so I won't lose my job so I can still pay for her medical expenses," he said.

Yes, here’s a guy who’s doing everything he can to be a good citizen, be responsible for himself and his family, and the police, prosecutors and court just aren’t having it. Even if King does have a conviction for child cruelty, that can mean virtually anything from the most horrific torture to the occasional spanking. The criminal justice system doesn’t treat the poor very well and it could easily be that King pled guilty to the offense in California in order to stay out of jail and continue being a father to his kids. That’s certainly the type of guy he appears to be.

But more to the point, he’s done nothing wrong. Countless parents leave kids with relatives or friends or neighbors every day in order to go to work and earn a living. Should they all be in prison now too? How is it that King’s neighbor’s perhaps negligent act of leaving the children alone in some way becomes King’s act of negligence? Unless the neighbor was so notoriously negligent or abusive that King knew or should have known that leaving his kids with her/him constituted, without more, a risk to them, there is simply no theory of criminal law under which King can be charged, much less found guilty.

King is charged with child abuse, but he didn’t abuse his children.

And of course he supposedly enjoys the presumption of innocence.

Meanwhile, where are his children? Does the state’s child welfare authority have them? Are they in foster care? If so, it’s been a trauma to them. It’s a trauma piled on top of the trauma of their mother being gravely ill. Is that in their best interest?

Finally, how is it a good idea to keep King in jail so he’ll almost certainly lose his job? How does that help?

The answer is that it helps very much. No, it doesn’t help King and it certainly doesn’t help his wife who’s depending on him to pay for her medical care that is literally a matter of life and death. Nor does it help his children who by now are terrified and have little idea of where their daddy is or what is going on.

But on my word of honor, it helps a great deal. Who it helps is the state. It helps the state take his children away. See? King’s irresponsible. He left his children with a neighbor who then left them unattended. He’s a deadbeat; he’ll soon have no job. How did he plan to care for those children without money? Clearly, the children are better off being cared for by strangers and then adopted by other strangers. And, just as a collateral benefit, the federal government will pay the State of North Carolina significant sums of money for wresting the children from their parents and then having them adopted. Of course if any of the children fail to make the grade for adoption and languish in foster care, moving every few months to a different family or group home, that’s just their tough luck. If they spend their lives unsuccessfully trying to deal with the emotional fallout of losing their parents at very young ages, well, they’ll be out of sight, out of mind. Child welfare authorities will have long since moved on to other perfectly decent families to ruin.

Such is the state’s take on the matter and it’s proceeding expeditiously and determinedly to accomplish exactly that result.

Fortunately, the outrage being perpetrated against King, his seriously ill wife and his innocent children has made international news. And maybe, just maybe, that’ll be enough to put a stop to it and allow sanity to rule. Maybe.

 

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