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Domestic CP - August 2003

Corpun file 11809

News-Press, Fort Myers, Florida, 7 August 2003

Jury acquits man charged in spanking

By Denes Husty III

A jury took less than an hour Wednesday to acquit a Naples man accused of child abuse for spanking his teenage daughter with a belt.

The jury found William O'Brien, 43, not guilty of felony child abuse in the May 27, 2002, spanking. The charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.

"I'm happy with the outcome," O'Brien said after hugging his wife Mary Ann and his 14-year-old daughter.

Both mother and daughter said they believed he should never have been charged to begin with. The daughter is not being named because of the nature of the case.

Assistant State Attorney Mara Manzano, who brought the case to trial, would only say, "the jury made their decision," as she left the courthouse.

O'Brien said he felt compelled to fight the charge although prosecutors offered to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.

"I certainly think to not fight this would have set a bad precedent for parents trying to raise children in today's times," he said.

O'Brien said he risked losing his license as a financial consultant, besides possible prison time, had he been convicted.

Defense attorney Donald Day said that "the state did more harm to this child than the spanking ever did" by charging O'Brien and insisting on a jury trial.

Day had requested that Circuit Judge Frank Baker decide, instead of a jury, whether O'Brien was innocent or guilty.

Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca said prosecutors demanded a trial by jury because they didn't think they could get a conviction without one.

"By law, a jury is entitled to decide such issues," he said.

Maresca, who filed the charge against O'Brien, said he believed the charge was valid.

"Should you be able to leave a mark on a child that lasts a week?" he asked.

O'Brien said the mark went away and his daughter was not permanently scarred.

He said he swatted his daughter, who was 13 at the time, once with a belt after she cursed at her mother and was disrespectful to him.

O'Brien said he ordered his daughter to her room and warned her not to come out or he would spank her.

She defied him by storming out of her room and slamming the door, and that's when he hit her once with the belt, he said.

Friends of his daughter at school the next day talked her into reporting what happened, O'Brien said.

His daughter told the nurse and the nurse told case workers with the state Department of Children & Families, O'Brien said.

Six months later, O'Brien said he was arrested.

As a result of what happened, "I learned my lesson" and she now obeys her parents, the daughter said.

Corpun file 11890

The Herald-Sun, Durham, N. Carolina, 10 August 2003

McCann: A firm hand has its place

By John McCann

I got suspended from school. Once.

That's all it took. Because when my daddy commenced to beating on me with his well-worn belt, I knew I'd better return to class and sit my butt down and act like I had some sense.

So to hear about black students in Durham's middle and high schools getting suspended at a higher clip than their white classmates raises the issue of discipline. Say what you want about white teachers not properly dealing with black students. The truth is, a kid who behaves won't even be in a position to feel the whims of a teacher's temperament.

Black students make up 56 percent of the student population in Durham schools. But this past academic year they accounted for 84 percent of suspensions lasting 10 days or less. When long-term suspensions were meted out, black students were the ones shown the door 71 percent of the time.

What gives?

"A lot of television and music is raising kids."

That's J.C. "Scottie" Scarborough IV.

"A lot of this generation's parents aren't raising their children."

He's 27, a young guy himself. But respect the man's opinion, won't you? Especially since he's not had one very long.

"Nowadays, children have a say. When I was coming up, there was no say."

Parents didn't do much talking, either. A firm hand was more eloquent.

"A good spanking never hurt me."

Scottie has some size on him. But he knew better than to try to break bad on his parents.

"A couple of whippings will humble you."

Can you dig what Scottie's saying? Whether it's on cable TV in your home or on monitors at the gym, or wherever the boob tube's broadcasting, you've at least caught a glimpse of those booty videos featuring cartoonish, I'm-da-man thugs with cooler-than-thou attitudes. Young people watch this stuff, study it and go to school to test it out. Then they get sent home.

"There's a breakdown in the family."

That's J.C. "Skeepie" Scarborough III, who once served detention for dropping an American flag when he was in elementary school. He's Scotty's father, and at 65 years old remembers being at Hillside High with soldiers just returned from the Korean War. They were older students working to earn high school diplomas and revered by their younger classmates. You could hear a pin drop when those war vets walked the halls.

So what happened?

Well, students stopped saying the pledge, Mr. Skeepie said. Politicians took prayer out of school. Parents kept kids out of church. So-called child advocacy groups started confusing physical abuse with firm, appropriately applied spankings. And sure, a spanking can get out of hand. But done right and done early, it's preventive maintenance. Don't ask me how it works. I just know it does.

Ask Scottie. "I think it made me the man I am today."

Get his old man to tell the story of the 6-foot-6-inch, 250-pound, All-State football player at Hillside who was cutting up in school one day. The principal, after dishing out his discipline, told the student he was going to call his mama. You know what that big, bad rascal did?

"He said, 'Please, do what you have to do, and more, because if my mother gets a hold of me, I'll never play football again,'" Mr. Skeepie recalled.

When his mama showed up, the big, rusty joker was peeping around the corner, crying.

"That was the respect he had for her."

And for her firm, forceful hand. It's what holds up society.

And keeps kids in school.

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