Texas dad Ronald Jackson was jailed for keeping his daughter’s cellphone to punish her. Yahoo News reported Jan. 27 that Texas police arrested the father for theft of his daughter’s phone. On first glance, this story reads like a case of state trampling on parental rights. Or it may sound like another example of entitled kids’ and their obsession with cellphones. After all, Ronald Jackson was just exercising his fatherly duties disciplining his child, right? But read on because it’s a little more complicated.
In 2013, Jackson found a text he deemed inappropriate on his 12-year-old daughter’s iPhone 4. So he took her phone. Seems legit to revoke privileges for awhile to teach her a lesson. But that was three years ago. Ronald Jackson never returned his daughter’s phone. So maybe that’s taking parental rights a phone too far, but it’s his phone to do with as he chose, right? Wrong. It belongs to the child’s mother, Michelle Steppe, who Jackson split from a few years ago. And mom doesn’t see him taking her property as parental rights but as theft.
Jackson was arrested after Michelle Steppe (who is now married to a Texas police officer) called the police to report the property stolen. When the police came to his house to get the phone back, Ronald Steppe decided to pull the parental rights card. He said no police officer was going to tell him how to parent his kid and he refused to surrender it. Three months later Texas authorities issued Ronald Jackson a citation for theft of property. He was offered a plea bargain if he would just return the iPhone to Michelle Steppe.
Jackson refused, hired an attorney and requested a jury trial. A warrant was put out for his arrest in another Texas county. Jackson said he knew nothing about till police showed up, cuffed him and took him to jail. Dad says it was senseless of everyone to make such a big deal out of a cellphone. But it was Ronald Jackson who ended up having to pay $1,500 bail for the right to keep his daughter’s cellphone. Ronald Jackson was found not guilty because there wasn’t enough evidence to prove cellphone theft, despite the fact that Michelle Steppe says she has the receipt and can prove it’s hers.
According to Jackson, he’s completely estranged from his child. He claims drama over the cellphone forced him to cut ties with his daughter and with Michelle Steppe. Evidently his “parental rights” were more import than actually being a parent to his daughter. All this over a cellphone–and they say kids are obsessive about them!