A Michigan Prosecutor’s ‘Mistake’ Becomes A Family’s ‘Nightmare’
A 10-year-old was charged with assault for throwing a ball at a classmate. The case was dropped, but its effect is still felt.
Cameishi Lindley was notified in late July that the Wayne County, Michigan, prosecutor’s office was filing charges against her 10-year-old son Bryce. The message came via an automated call and included few details aside from his court date, which was just a week away.
“I was devastated,” Lindley told The Appeal by phone. “I was shocked. I was upset. I really was in disbelief.”
Bryce had gotten into some trouble months before. He was accused of hitting another boy in the head with a ball at recess. The boy ended up with a black eye and a bruise on his nose. Still, Lindley, who has a background in public administration and as a paralegal, couldn’t have dreamed her son would face criminal charges for something that happened on the playground.
“It has been, really, a nightmare,” she said.
Lindley’s nightmare didn’t last long. She shared her news on Facebook and the story went viral within hours, getting picked up by media outlets all across the country. A week later, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy dropped the charges.
In a letter to Lindley’s attorney, Worthy wrote: “The charge in this case was a mistake in judgment by this office, even though it was rectified by permanently dismissing the case on July 31, 2019, prior to the first scheduled court proceeding.”
But Lindley says the matter is far from “rectified.” Although the legal trouble is behind her family, she says the ordeal has had a lasting effect on both her and her son’s lives.
According to Lindley, it has been hard to do things she once enjoyed, like volunteering at her son’s school, since receiving the call in July. She said it has been hard to focus at work, and on the small business selling candles that she operates on the side. Bryce has been similarly affected.
“He hasn’t been real active in playing with his friends since all of this, either,” Lindley explained. “Even though some of his friends have tried to get him to come outside and stuff like that, he’s really not interested. Prior to this, he was always outside with his friends. He was always playing, happy, and things like that.”
Being recognized in public has been another consequence of the incident, Lindley added. The attention has been a source of anxiety for Bryce, who worries someone might hurt him because they think he’s “a bully.”
What the Lindleys are going through is a direct result of the prosecutor’s “mistake” says the family’s lawyer, Maurice Davis, who has called on the office to re-evaluate its practices regarding school-related incidents.
“We demanded that the prosecutor’s office not accept referrals for prosecutions from schoolyard incidents except under extremely limited exceptions. This is something that could’ve been handled by the school,” Davis told The Appeal by phone.
In an Aug. 8 letter to Davis, Worthy pledged that her office would review its policies to “prevent a similar matter from happening in the future.” A spokesperson for Worthy would not comment further but told The Appeal via email: “It is an internal process. When it is complete, the information will be released.”
For the sake of other children, Davis hopes the prosecutor’s office takes a comprehensive look at how it approaches children and their families, including the trauma inflicted when it charges children with crimes.
“Sending a 10-year-old a notice like this can be a traumatic experience,” said Davis. “He’s a 10-year-old baby thinking that something he did on a playground is going to cause him to lose his freedom. This could have had—could still have—lifelong implications for him.”
For her part, Lindley is doing everything she can to get Bryce back to his old self. That includes finding him treatment for the trauma brought about by the situation and continuing to press the Wayne County prosecutor’s office.
“I definitely would like to see some kind of change,” she said. “I would like people to be held accountable and responsible for what they do.”