PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have come to the defense of a Florida mother who was arrested and charged with child neglect for allowing her 7-year-old son to visit a neighborhood playground located a half mile from their house. For the so-called “crime” of allowing her son to play at the park unsupervised, Nicole Gainey was interrogated, arrested and handcuffed in front of her son, and transported to the local jail where she was physically searched, fingerprinted, photographed and held for seven hours and then forced to pay almost $4000 in bond in order to return to her family. Gainey’s family and friends were subsequently questioned by the Dept. of Child Services. Gainey now faces a third-degree criminal felony charge that carries with it a fine of up to $5,000 and 5 years in jail.
Insisting that parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children, which includes determining when their children are mature enough to play outside or walk to a neighborhood park by themselves, Rutherford Institute attorneys plan to demand that the charges against Gainey be dropped.
“What this incident and others like it taking place across the country make clear is that the theater of the absurd that passes for life in the American police state grows more tragic and incomprehensible by the day,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “While we all want to ensure that our young people are safe and protected, the government cannot usurp a parent’s right to determine what is appropriate for their children. Unless we put a stop to this ‘government-knows-best’ nanny state mindset now, we may soon find that we have no rights whatsoever in a society that is increasingly bureaucratic, legalistic, politically correct, self-righteous and unconcerned about individual rights.”
Nicole Gainey, a resident of Port St. Lucie, Fla., was arrested on Saturday, July 26, 2014, after allowing her 7-year-old son Dominic to walk by himself from their house to a popular neighborhood playground located a half mile away. According to Gainey, Dominic normally rides his bike (which was out of commission that day due to a flat tire) to Sportsmans’ Park, which is located along the same stretch of road as a fire station, community pool, library, church and a daycare. Dominic also rides his bike along that same route when going to school, which is two miles away, without anyone raising any concerns. As usual, Dominic carried a cell phone with him in order to check in with his mom.
According to the 7-year-old, someone asked him where his mom was when he was walking past the pool. Police officers were called, went to the park, questioned Dominic, and then drove him home in their car, without alerting his mother that there was a concern or that they had picked up her son. Upon arriving at Gainey’s home, officers questioned the single mother about her son’s whereabouts, without informing her that they had picked him up. The police then arrested Gainey, charged her with neglect, and took her to the local jail, where she was physically searched, fingerprinted, photographed and held for seven hours and then forced to pay almost $4000 in bond in order to return to her family. Gainey’s son was allowed to stay with her boyfriend in lieu of going to foster care.
In coming to Gainey’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys plan to challenge the arrest and charges, in light of the fact that there is no law specifying how old a child has to be before he or she can go somewhere unsupervised. State officials are allowed discretion to determine what is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Institute attorneys argue that parents have every right to make their own determinations about when their children are mature enough and responsible enough to be permitted to safely play outside by themselves, wait in the car by themselves or walk to a neighborhood park unsupervised.