More Young Children Getting Arrested

ByABC News via via logo

July 31, 2001 -- Pregnant mom Mattie Ashley said she wanted to teach her 6-year-old son Alex a lesson, so she took an unusual discipline tactic. She called the police and had him arrested.

The Fort Meyers, Fla., mother insisted that police arrest her son when they arrived on the scene after the boy kicked her in the stomach.

Alex's mother told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that she would call the police again on her son under the right circumstances.

"I have to make him realize he can't do this," Ashley said. "I love him dearly, but I refuse to lose him in the system. I'm going to do what it takes to stop him and to let him realize that what he's doing is very serious and he can get into a lot of trouble."

Florida's deputy state attorney, Marshall Bower, said charges would not be filed against the boy because he is too young to have formed "criminal intent" before his actions.

"I don't think any 6-year-old belongs in the criminal justice system," Bower told Good Morning America. He said the police on the scene may have felt they had probable cause to arrest the boy for assault, but he was released immediately after being brought in.

Nevertheless, he is not the only extremely youthful offender that police across the country have dealt with lately.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice reported that more than 100 children aged 5 and 6 have been arrested in Florida in the past 12 months.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of this," Bowers said. "We're tending to want to handle these types of problems through the juvenile justice system, as opposed to getting help for these children and their families through other means."

No charges were filed in the 84 cases in Florida that have been resolved.

Other cases with pint-sized offenders include:

Harry Branch-Shaw, a 3-year-old pre-schooler who lives in Manhattan's East Village, was with his nanny in the park when they both realized that he wasn't going to make it to a nearby public toilet in time. To avoid an accident, she had the boy urinate near a tree.

The nanny was promptly handed a $50 summons for Harry's public urination.

New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern said this week that he will review the case and make a "reasonable judgment," after officials find out the facts. Meanwhile, his mom, Gigi Branch-Shaw, has vowed to appear before the Environmental Control Board later this month to get it straightened out.

And in Bismarck, N.D., a 7-year-old boy is facing a criminal theft charge for stealing $6 from his mother. His mother filed charges after she asked both of her sons if they did it, and the 7-year-old confessed. The matter is headed to juvenile court.

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