In Dallas, Texas, Ronald Jackson thought he was just being a good parent by taking away his daughter’s iPhone as punishment, but instead he was arrested and charged with theft of the cell phone after the mother sicced the police on him. Recently, the dad was found not guilty by a Dallas County jury, but the entire ordeal has resulted in the father being separated from his teenage daughter.
The incident in question actually took place in September of 2013. He and his daughter’s mother, Michelle Steppe, were no longer a couple, but they had shared custody of their child. At the time, Jackson’s daughter was only 12-years-old, and she was having trouble adjusting to her father’s new family.
Using her iPhone 4s, the then-tween texted a friend with a message saying she did not “like his ratchet girlfriend or her kids.” In the rap world, the term “ratchet” has various uses, but in general it’s usually considered to be insulting.
When Jackson saw that his daughter wrote such a demeaning text, he confiscated his daughter’s iPhone. Although the cell phone technically belonged to Steppe since she purchased the iPhone for her daughter, the cell phone plan was provided by Jackson.
“I was being a parent,” Jackson told CBS. “A child does something wrong, you teach them what’s right.”
Both parents agree that the daughter went to a friend’s house and called her mother. Upon hearing about the situation, the mother called the police, who went to Jackson’s home to try and get the iPhone back.
“At that point, I decided the police don’t interfere with my ability to parent my daughter,” Jackson explained.
Shortly later, the mother arrived herself to pick up her daughter, but she also demanded that the father return the daughter’s cell phone. After Jackson declined her request, Steppe sent him a demand letter.
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The situation escalated from there. Jackson was mailed a citation for petty theft, a Class C misdemeanor, but the father decided to fight the police’s involvement in court. The prosecutor in the case decided to elevate the charges to theft of property of at least $50 but under $500, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Shortly later, Jackson found himself awakened by police in the middle of the night, arrested, and taken to jail.
“Why would you arrest someone for something like that?” Jackson asked. “Don’t you have better things to do as a police officer? Aren’t there bigger crimes in the city that you need to take care of?”
Steppe argues her actions were justified since the property belonged to her and “you can’t take someone’s property, regardless if you’re a parent or not.” The judge in the case apparently disagreed. After everyone, including the daughter, testified about the case, Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Lisa Green ordered the jury to find the Dallas dad not guilty of iPhone theft since there was not enough evidence to prove his guilt. Jackson was also allowed to keep the confiscated iPhone.
“Even if you purchase something with your own money and have a receipt, it’s not yours,” Steppe says. “Someone can take it from you.”
Detective Lyle Gensler with Grand Prairie police told WFAA the police prefer not to interfere in such family disputes.
“We do not like these kinds of instances to go into the criminal justice system,” Gensler says. “We prefer to keep it out and the phone be returned and let the parents, the two adults, and let them work it out among themselves.”
To this day, Ronald Jackson still has the iPhone, and he plans on filing a federal complaint for civil rights violations for the way he was treated by police during a family dispute. His relationship with his daughter is also ruined.
“I have to separate myself from them,” Jackson says. “I can’t ever have a relationship with them again.”
What do you think about the case?
[Image composite via YouTube]