Mother of young miscreant sues police, victim

By Vin Suprynowicz
web posted November 1997

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 is Cool."

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 wiped clean.

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.

Mysterious strangers, greedy capitalists, evil-hearted police ...

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 vin@lvrj.com. 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.




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