ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – Local law enforcement officials say prosecuting cases involving young victims is not all that easy.
This following the story of a Brighton couple whose baby died after swallowing a methadone pill at a neighbor’s house. The Monroe County DA’s Office decided not to prosecute, a decision that upset Maisie Gillan’s parents.
Sara VanStrydonck found out about Maisie’s death almost as soon as it happened. She’s the child abuse bureau chief at the DA’s office. She said after investigating the case from all sides the DA’s office wasn’t able to charge anyone.
“Sometimes things are just tragic, tragic accidents and I know society always seems to want somebody to be held accountable all the time and sometimes things are just really terrible accidents,” she said.
She said they looked into criminal negligence but it just didn’t fit.
“A lot of people accidentally drop pills, unfortunately, I certainly don’t think there was any malicious intent so we’re going towards the negligence standard.”
VanStrydonck said scenarios sometimes evolve faster than the law.
“It’s hard for the law to write individual statutes you cant do this to a child you cant do that to a child that’s a crime. So we do have a catch-all in our law that’s called endangering the welfare of a child.”
But she said that law is extremely broad and only a class A misdemeanor.
“Why don’t we have a catch-all adding some additional factors on but makes it a felony. That gives it some more teeth that give it some more protection for our kids. They can use the same language but maybe there’s another element…Some other factor that would elevate it to a felony so we’re not trying to say this is a terrible thing that happened to a kid and you know what it should be illegal it’s not a legal thing and the community doesn’t think its legal and the community thinks we should be charging people for this but we can’t.”
She said some examples of other factors to raise the charge to a felony could be a child getting seriously injured, causing a grave risk of death, or someone already being convicted with endangering the welfare of a child.
VanStrydonck said that a felony version of endangering the welfare of a child has been voted on the Senate floor but has never made it to the assembly.