By Wayne Litke
The question is:
Is there a limit to coercion and manipulative lengths police can use in solving a brutal or significant crime? Apparently there is, and I ask because various media reported on an interesting case last week in which a father was used by police to extract information from his underage son in order to prosecute him. It sounds like a screwed up situation to me and I believe it shows what can happen when a dysfunctional parental relationship is exploited, albeit with good intentions.
According to the National Post, the boy’s estranged father was wired up by Ontario Provincial Police and coached as he built a relationship with his son for the sole purpose of gaining incriminating evidence about the beating death of his son’s four-year-old nephew. Funds for the project were provided by the police and included a birthday gift (Nike Air Jordan running shoes), fast food excursions, shopping, hanging out in a hotel room, playing video games and the use of a rental car.
The father, who has a criminal record and was absent most of his son’s life, tried to gain his boy’s trust by telling him that he had his back and truly cared because he was his dad (and that is what dads do). He repeatedly said he had his son’s interests at heart and even used the L-word in reference to his feelings for his child, but it was all a smoke screen.
Dad was coached through the process by the police and given guidelines to follow, but became “relentless” in his pursuit of information. When the case went to court, a judge ruled the father had gone too far and did not follow police instructions as he worked as their agent. Therefore, his son’s statements were not admitted as evidence.
The boy never admitted to injuring or killing the four-year old child, but emphatically told his father that his younger brother did not play any role in the incident. While his mother worked, the boy was often left to babysit his 10-year-old brother and three younger children who belonged to his half-sister. This all took place in a sparsely furnished house, and the accused youth was 15 years old when the crime was committed.
Two years later, the court found him guilty of manslaughter since his younger brother testified that he had seen him hitting his nephew many times with a belt. The young offender was sentenced to 17 months probation, which will involve intensive rehabilitation and counseling. Without knowing the father’s background or situation, it appears like he also needs the same treatment, but that’s another matter.
The judge in the case called the betrayal “particularly manipulative trickery.” Judge Susan MacLean said the father’s misconduct “offends the community’s sense of fair play and decency.” She noted the father’s gifts and actions may have irreparably damaged any potential future relationship with his son. Unfortunately, there was not much of a father-son relationship before the sting operation and that was likely a significant factor in the actions of the boy. One thing is certain – there will definitely not be any future bonding between the dad and his son unless a miracle occurs.
At the time of the sting operation, the boy’s mother had been arrested for failing to provide for the necessities of life. The judge had additional concerns about her son’s trial since a young offender is entitled to consult a parent before speaking to police. However, the boy’s only available parent at the time of his arrest was a police agent who was intent on obtaining information to put him behind bars.
I feel the boy’s lawyer correctly summed up the situation when he said, “A parent should be the one person a child should be able to trust.” Unfortunately, dad was not around when his children needed him the most and mom was having trouble providing for the family. Since other circumstances surrounding the family are not known, a person can only speculate about how the children were reared and the values they were taught.
At the end of the day, a few questions remain. 1 – should a parent participate (or be encouraged to participate) in a sting operation that will help convict their child? 2 – should a deadbeat dad (or mom) be allowed to rebuild a relationship with their child if they do not have good intentions? 3 – Is there a difference between this case and a parent turning in a son or daughter who has committed a crime? 4 – Was justice served as a four-year-old child was beat to death by a 15-year-old relative who then received a probationary sentence of 17 months.
My last question is one that I hope many fathers ask themselves – am I doing everything possible to help my children and family? Sadly, I see a lot of situations that lead me to believe the opposite is occurring. In fact, I know a guy – a nice young man – who was recently incarcerated (again) and I believe his problems go back to a very dysfunctional dad. Instead of parenting with care, compassion and love, the father left his son with a legacy of hurt and grief that resulted in abandonment, confusion, lawlessness and finally prison. As fathers, we owe it to our children to do better.