In An Editorial about the woman who said a man had tried to drag her daughter away at a mall, the Huntington Herald-Dispatch editorialized that the false accusation “brings shame to the entire area,” and notes that if she is convicted, Santana Renee Adams faces a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.
But let’s back up a bit and start with the story, from True’s 7 April 2019 issue:
Desperately Seeking Attention
Santana Renee Adams, 24, told police in Barboursville, W.Va., that while she was shopping at the Huntington Mall, a man grabbed her 5-year-old daughter by the hair and tried to drag her away. The crime was thwarted when she pulled a pistol and confronted the man, who then ran away, she said. A short time later a 54-year-old suspect was found at the mall, identified by Adams, and arrested. “I’m thankful I was prepared to protect my daughter regarding a situation that could have gone worse,” she told a reporter. However, there were not only no witnesses to the supposed crime, Adams never even yelled for help. On the other hand, security camera footage indicates the man didn’t go anywhere near the girl, and Adams never pulled the gun that was found in her pocket, nor showed upset at any time. The next day, Adams told police that “she might have misjudged” and “overreacted” to the man, and maybe he was just “smiling” at the girl when he “patted her on the head.” Even that was a lie. The arrested man said he never interacted with Adams or her daughter in any way, and charges were dropped — but Adams has been arrested, charged with filing a false report of an emergency. (RC/Huntington Herald-Dispatch) …While she “might have misjudged” the situation, let’s hope the judge doesn’t.
Doing it Right
I don’t fault the Barboursville police one bit: when presented with a credible accusation of a crime, and a victim identification of the perpetrator, of course they arrested him. Yet it didn’t end there: detectives worked the case diligently, got the mall’s security camera videos the next day, found glaring discrepancies, and called the mother in for a second interview that same day. That’s what they’re supposed to do, and they not only did it well, they did it quickly.
It was heartening that police went out of their way to help the falsely accused suspect, an Egyptian engineer who was in the state on business and scheduled to fly home within a few days. He actually made it onto his scheduled flight, in part because officers took him to the airport themselves, and made sure he got through airport security with no problems! While the false accusation may have “brought shame” to the region as the local newspaper said, I think the police department’s professionalism brought some deserved pride to the region too.
By the way: I’m purposefully not including the name of the actual victim in the case: he’ll probably have trouble for the rest of his life as it is with such an accusation easily found with online searches.
Social Media Hysteria
Police have a theory about Adams’ false accusations. Barboursville Police Detective Greg Lucas told reporters that “false rumors on social media about attempted child abductions” could be a factor. Yet all of those reports or rumors have been “entirely baseless,” he said. “Nobody has made a police report and nobody has called 911 about these issues, but it’s out there” on social media anyway. “I can’t say that she had any kind of agenda or what her agenda was,” he continued, “but it still was very, very bad to hurt this man and upset our entire community like it did.”
Barboursville Police Sgt. Anthony Jividen put the online trend in clear perspective. He said in his 30 years as a police officer in the city, “no actual child abductions have been reported or investigated.” Yet such rumors persist online.
Penalties: Not Enough
My tagline on the story seems to call for Adams to get a significant sentence. Yes: yes it does.
When it’s proven that someone lied to implicate an innocent person of a heinous crime, they shouldn’t face a small fine and a short jail sentence. No, they should face the sentence the accused would have received on conviction. For this case, the West Virginia Code’s Chapter 61 (Crimes and Their Punishment), §61-2-14 (Abduction of person; kidnapping or concealing child; penalties) dictates that “Any person, other than the father or mother, who illegally, or for any unlawful, improper or immoral purpose other than the purposes stated in subsection (a) of this section or section fourteen-a or fourteen-c of this article, seizes, take or secretes a child under sixteen years of age, from the person or persons having lawful charge of such child, shall be guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than one nor more than ten years.”
One to 10 years? While that sounds pretty light for abducting a child, it sounds more like an absolute minimum for Adams. Why shouldn’t she get what she was trying to push on a man that never actually went anywhere near her young daughter? That’s not an “overreaction” or (as she claimed) a “cultural misunderstanding,” that’s clear perjury in a sworn statement to investigators. Conveniently, the state’s Code (Article 5. Crimes Against Public Justice, §61-5-3, Penalties for perjury, subordination of perjury, and false swearing) also specifies a penalty of 1-10 years upon conviction — again a felony, not a mere misdemeanor.
Why do I say it’s “clear”? Note from the story that in her second interview the next day, while Adams started to admit she perhaps “overreacted” and that rather than try to drag the girl away by her hair he merely “patted her on the head” while smiling. That was still a lie. Remember, by then the police had already seen the video evidence that the man never went anywhere near the girl or her mother. After sleeping on it, Adams continued with her false statements. So much for any “heat of the moment” excuses.
Adams was apparently released from jail pending trial after posting a $20,000 bond. Maybe she can sell her gun to help pay for a lawyer.
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