Ten-year-old Jeremy Anderson didn't content himself with a pair of discreet
initials. He messed up yards and yards of wet concrete sidewalk in a new
housing development in northwest Las Vegas last November, plowing large
in the moist, fertile medium such thoughts for the ages as "Snoopy
To his partial credit, the lad has never denied what he did. (Of course
it would have been hard; he also left behind his own name.) He pleaded
"no contest" to a reduced gross misdemeanor charge in May, and
was assigned to complete a YMCA program, after which his record will be
Less credible is the lad's contention he was invited to work his will
by a mysterious employee of the cement firm ... who has never been produced.
Taking to the national talk show circuit to elicit studio-audience outrage
over her child being arrested for such a "boys-will-be-boys"
prank, Jeremy's mother, Barbara Anderson, has long sought to cast Richard
Plaster, president of Plaster Development Co., as the villain in this
case, after a supervisor in Mr. Plaster's employ had the temerity to seek
restitution of damages.
This despite the fact that Mr. Plaster actually asked that all charges
against the boy be dropped -- a request which was rejected by Clark County
District Attorney Stewart Bell.
Now Ms. Anderson has filed a lawsuit in Clark County District Court, contending
the concrete firm employee who sought compensation thus attempted to "blackmail"
the Andersons with a threat of arrest if $11 000 in damages were not paid,
and also that Las Vegas police officer Frank Janise acted improperly when
he arrested young Jeremy at school, without first informing his parents.
(This despite the fact Ms. Anderson could not be reached by telephone
in numerous attempts -- one of the numbers she had provided school authorities
turning out to be non-functional.)
The method of the arrest was indeed unnecessarily traumatic for a youngster
not suspected of murder or battery. But as for Ms. Anderson's new claim
(filed August 26) that the actions of the police and the sidewalk-layers
constituted "intimidation," causing her "fear, mental anguish,
and a decreased enjoyment of life, all to her damage in an amount in excess
of $10 000:" Balderdash. Horse hockey. Purest piffilation.
The first cause of Ms. Anderson's distress was her son. (I regret young
Jeremy's name is thus kept in the news, but whose fault is that?)
But the real culprit here, it grows increasingly clear, is neither the
boy, nor Officer Janise, nor the concrete-layers, but Barbara Anderson.
When first convinced her son had done the deed, did Ms. Anderson make
it clear the lad would be severely punished, assure the damaged party
that some restitution would be made, and then earnestly inquire of Mr.
Plaster whether the mentioned sum could not be reduced -- or perhaps worked
off, in part, by young Jeremy himself?
There is no evidence she ever did. Ms. Anderson, throughout, has been
at pains to instruct her son that there is no need to take responsibility
for one's own wanton and destructive actions in this world, that someone
else can always be found on whom to pin the blame.
Some letter-writers to this local newspaper have even suggested that laying
concrete during the day creates an "attractive nuisance," since
it's bound to sit there, invitingly, as the kids come home from school.
And if the concrete companies worked only at night, when the kids were
tucked safely into bed? Why, then their labors would form an "attractive
nuisance" in the early morning, as the kids are headed off toward
school ... wouldn't they?
How far down this road must we travel in order to find accused murderers
seriously suggesting they should be excused because they came from broken
homes; they were adopted; they were rendered half-mad by the effects of
junk food and too much TV violence, by suggestive song lyrics ...?
The trend is both disgusting and dangerous. Older citizens who have suffered
real and grievous bodily harm routinely die, these days, before their
damage suits can wend their way through our clogged civil courts. And
with what kind of actions are those courts clogged, until delays run to
years and years? Why, with suits like Barbara Anderson's, of course.
If we are to remain a free people, we must accept responsibility for our
own, free choices. This internalized voice of conscience cannot be implanted
by the state; it is almost entirely the responsibility of parents. Anyone
who threatens that parental prerogative damages us all.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las
Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/.
The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain
Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.