Pranks and Consequences

The Capital District has gotten some national media attention again.  This time, it’s a prank in Bethlehem, NY.  Charges were filed… but not against the pranksters.  Wait… what?

It’s true.  (Check out this article from the Times Union.)  A group of four teenagers were out late last Saturday night.  They chose to bang on Daniel Van Plew’s back door and to ring the front door bell.  Van Plew chased one of them down and tackled him.  Because of the pranksters’ ages, they will not be charged.  However, Van Plew was charged.  From the TU article:

Van Plew was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and second-degree harassment, a violation, and issued appearance tickets.

I tried to think about this situation from both fathers’ perspectives.

Like Van Plew, I am a 37-year-old father of two children living in a suburban neighborhood, (not Bethlehem though).  There have been instances of late-night home invasions in our sleepy neighborhood.  I imagine the same could be true in Bethlehem.  My wife and I have even talked about our game plan in the event of a home invasion or disturbance.  I feel that I can put myself in Van Plew’s shoes.  My reaction might be similar.

However, when it came to the Madeos’ (parents of the prankster) reaction, I’ll admit that I could not completely understand it.  Sure, I have no desire to see my child hurt.  Initially, I might be angry to see that someone else hurt my son.  However, I expect that attitude would change dramatically upon hearing the whole story.  I know that debate is ongoing about whether or not the boy was tackled on Van Plew’s property.  There is no debate that the boy suffered some injuries, but their extent is also in question.  Again, from the TU article:

In addition to cuts on his elbow, a bruise over his eye and a fat lip noted in the police report, Hanson [the Madeos’ attorney]  said the Madeo boy suffered four broken braces. A visit to his orthodontist revealed two loose front teeth and possible root damage from the trauma may cause the teeth to die off and perhaps require root canals and false teeth, she said.

My wife and I hypothetically discussed our reactions if it were our son involved.  The differences would be stark.  Here are some of our thoughts:

  • Even if the injuries were more severe than indicated on the police report, we would not ask that Van Plew be charged.  We would not seek a civil case.  We would not hire a lawyer unless absolutely necessary.
  • If the police charged Van Plew anyway (is that even possible?), we would publicly ask that the charges be dropped.
  • We would be grateful that our son is alive and use this as an opportunity to show him the danger of his actions.  What if the homeowner had been armed?
  • We would remind our son that his injuries were “natural consequences of his actions.”  (That is a concept my father taught me from early on.) We would ensure that he is cared for with the appropriate medical treatment, but there wouldn’t be a whole lot of sympathy over the injuries.
  • There would be other discipline… call it “parental consequences.”  That might include grounding, loss of allowance, loss of most privileges, etc. (By the way, I recognize that the Madeos say they are disciplining their son.)
  • We would require our son to publicly apologize to the community and privately to the Van Plews.
  • As parents, we would share our viewpoints with the parents of the other teenagers involved.

Based upon the facts at hand, here are my minimum recommendations:

Mr. and Mrs. Madeo… It’s time to dump your lawyer and ask the District Attorney to drop the charges.  Don’t even think about a civil suit.

Mr. David Soares (Albany County District Attorney)… Drop the charges whether or not the Madeos request it.

Mr. Van Plew… I urge you to not to escalate the situation any further, especially if the charges are dropped.  Take the high ground.  My guess is that you’ll have plenty of community support, maybe even legal and financial, should you need it.

What do you think?

————————-

7/24/10 Update:  Looks like David Soares will drop the charges.  Good decision.  Check out this article from the Times Union.  Is anybody surprised that the Madeos’ attorney “reacted with indignation” according to the article?

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7 Comments

  1. Unfortunately i think this story showcases society’s lack of responsibility and accountability. I am so baffled after all the attention the Madeo’s haven’t dropped the charges. And what about the cops, the TU article seemed to hint the cops supported the idea of charges on Plew.

    On the bright side, the majority of the comments on TU support Plew, recognizing the absurdness of the charges. So maybe common sense of right and wrong are out there just not prevalent.

    Reply
    • D –

      You’re right on the mark (as usual). Accountability and responsibility. Much too uncommon these days.

      I had wondered too about the police. You’d think they would sit down with both parties and provide their perspective… then walk away. Just a guess, but maybe the police are afraid of being sued.

      Reply
      • I liked this blog entry. Thank you for sharing. I too am glad that Soares dropped this. You make a good point that police could be wary of being sued. It is also true that sometimes leading the reader to believe that the police are up to no good makes for good reading whether or not it is in the precise spirit of recalling the details objectively.

      • That’s a good point Alicia. I do seem to recall seeing a recent “no comment” from the police. I guess that’s understandable, but I’d still love to find out what happened during the police discussions at both the Madeo and Van Plew houses. I guess the media got me hooked on the speculation within the story, not just the facts.

  2. Bob Phillips

     /  July 24, 2010

    my suspicion, based on prior personal experience is that “real crimes” require too much actual work and are too hard to solve, where bs stuff like this can result in easy convictions ( many in plea bargains of probation etc) on the DA’s and officers records. convictions and solved “crimes” ensure the job security of the officials as they look efficient and the numbers prove they are doing their jobs and are necessary.

    Reply
    • Interesting thought. You may very well be right. However, I suspect part of the reason the Albany County DA dropped the charges is because they are busy dealing with real crimes in the rest of the county (mostly Albany itself). I can’t imagine that huge numbers of crimes come out of the wealthier Bethlehem suburb. Of course, that’s just a guess…

      Reply
    • Excellent comment. I whole heartedly agree.

      Reply

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