JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The mother of a 10-year-old child who was sentenced by a Mississippi judge to three months of probation and a book report for urinating in public has refused to sign his probation agreement and has asked for the charge against her son to be dismissed, the family’s attorney announced Tuesday.
The child’s mother had initially planned on signing the agreement to avoid the risk of prosecutors upgrading her son’s charge, as they threatened, but she changed her mind after reading the full agreement Tuesday, attorney Carlos Moore said.
“We cannot in good conscience accept a probation agreement that treats a 10-year-old child as a criminal,” Moore said. “The terms proposed are not in the best interest of our client, and we will take all necessary steps to challenge them.”
The terms for the 10-year-old’s probation were similar to those prosecutors would demand of an adult, including sections that prohibited the use of weapons and demanded he submit to drug tests at a probation officer’s discretion, Moore said.
“It’s just a regular probation. I thought it was something informed for a juvenile. But it’s the same terms an adult criminal would have,” Moore said.
The agreement also imposed an 8 p.m. curfew for the child, which would have taken effect during the Christmas holiday.
The terms of the agreement stem from a sentence ordered on Dec. 12 by Tate County Youth Court Judge Rusty Harlow. The judge said the child, who is Black, must serve three months of probation and write a two-page book report on the late NBA star Kobe Bryant.
The child’s mother has said her son urinated behind her vehicle while she was visiting a lawyer’s office in Senatobia, Mississippi, on Aug. 10. Police officers in the town of about 8,100 residents, 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Memphis, Tennessee, saw the child urinating and arrested him. Officers put him in a squad car and took him to the police station.
Senatobia Police Chief Richard Chandler said the child was not handcuffed, but his mother has said he was put in a jail cell.
Days after the episode, Chandler said the officers violated their training on how to deal with children. He said one of the officers who took part in the arrest was “ no longer employed,” and other officers would be disciplined. He didn’t specify whether the former officer was fired or quit, or what type of discipline the others would face.
The prosecution threatened to upgrade the charge of “child in need of supervision” to a more serious charge of disorderly conduct if the boy’s family took the case to trial, Moore said.
A voicemail message left for Paige Williams, the Tate County Youth Court prosecutor appointed to handle the case, was not immediately returned. A staffer for Williams has said the attorney could not comment on cases involving juveniles.
After advising the boy’s mother not to sign the probation agreement, Moore filed a motion requesting the Tate County Youth Court either dismiss the case or set a trial. A hearing on that motion has been scheduled for Jan. 16.
Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him at @mikergoldberg.