WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Court TV) — Tim Ferriter opted not to testify in his own defense and instead, let Ring videos from “the box” help make his case for locking up a son whose chronic behavioral issues threatened himself and their family.
Ferriter is charged with child abuse and false imprisonment and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
Defense attorney Prya Murad played for jurors the video in which the defendant had been seen threatening to put an ankle bracelet on RF, to address the child’s habit of running away.
“You can hear Tim Ferriter attempting to parent…it’s not perfect,” said Murad, who said that it was Ferriter’s way of telling his then 14-year-old son that he had a duty to keep him safe. “No parent can allow their child to run in the street, no parent can allow their child to be lost and not go find them,” she said.
READ MORE: FL v. Timothy Ferriter: Boy in a Box Trial
The defense attorney conceded Ferriter made bad parenting choices, but argued the family was at its wit’s end and had sought professional help to deal with RF’s behavioral issues to no avail.
“Those six weeks were the pinnacle of frustration – that tone is what you are hearing after years of continuous effort,” she argued.
Despite the Ferriters’ best efforts, RF’s misdeeds, which included lying, stealing, and aggression toward his siblings and other children, persisted. Murad explained that while some of the actions Tim took were extreme, they were in response to his son’s actions, whose misbehavior was escalating and becoming more alarming. RF admitted he brought a box cutter to school one day, the second incident involving a sharp blade that jurors heard about. Ferriter’s friend Sev De Borzatti said a handful of knives had gone missing while they were vacationing, only to be recovered from RF’s backpack.
Murad said the Ferriters monitored RF’s use of the Chromebook, because his online searches were about violence. Murad explained that when Tim reprimanded his son for turning on the air conditioner in the middle of the night, it was because RF had once started an electrical fire.
“Tim Ferriter made bad choices and you don’t have to agree with them but whether or not what he did was a crime under the law is a different question altogether and it is one that the State has not proven and I’m asking that you find him not guilty,” Murad said in closing.
Prosecutor Karen Black reminded jurors that RF was a child, 11 years old, and in elementary school when Tim started locking him up, a punishment that went on for years, which would only have exacerbated RF’s psychological issues.
“What Tim Ferriter did was not reasonable,” she said, suggesting that RF’s infractions were minor and common among school-aged children and that Ferriter’s method of punishment was out of proportion to his misdeeds.
Brianna Coakley reminded jurors of the extended hours that RF spent in the “box,” in what amounted to solitary confinement. A box built in the garage away from other members of his family. She noted that RF was locked in the room every day for 14 to 18 hours a day, forced to relieve himself in a bucket, and when he misbehaved his confinement would include several hours of sitting in the dark alone, which she said was nothing less than psychological torture. She went on to argue that Tim’s discipline of RF was driven by anger not concern, noting that none of the medical professionals they consulted recommended extended confinement as a treatment.
To reinforce her argument, Coakley replayed a profanity-laced scolding that Tim gave his son over his bad attitude.
“The response is to not have a conversation with him, not try to do anything that would be useful, instead locks him in the dark in an empty cell, turns the lights off because he’s mad,” she said. “That’s malice toward this child.”
Coakley went on to argue that the videos shown by the defense, which conveyed RF’s time in and around the house when he was not locked up, only supported the prosecution’s case.
“The victim is able to conduct himself in a family environment. He plays nicely with his little brother P**, he is able to behave appropriately with his other siblings. You see him playing with the dog, we do not see violence or aggression,” Coakley argued. “The evidence is the contrary, the person jeopardizing the safety of the family was Tim Ferriter.”
Ferriter is charged with Aggravated Child Abuse, False Imprisonment and Neglect of a Child. He faces up to 40 years in prison if he is convicted of the top count. Ferriter had turned down a plea offer of two years in prison, followed by probation.