THE INVESTIGATORS: Attorney suggests stiffer penalties for parents pulling strings of juvenile crime

An attorney who spent some time as a state senator is hoping his former colleagues will step in after the a woman was accused of using her two sons to help her.
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:31 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An attorney who spent some time as a state senator is hoping his former colleagues will step in after a woman was accused of using her two sons to help her steal.

Surveillance video of the alleged crime obtained by the 9News Investigators shows one of the boys set a rack of clothes on fire inside the Carter’s children’s clothing store on Siegen Lane. As soon as the pants started smoking, the mom can be seen stuffing nearby clothing into her purse.

“We’ve never seen where a parent is actively engaging her children in a crime of arson,” said David Hughes with the St. George Fire Department.

The mom, identified as Jerdae Tanner, remains locked up and is facing aggravated arson and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile charges. Former senator and now attorney Rick Ward said more needs to be done to prevent something like this in the future.

“It’s a problem we’re starting to see more and more unfortunately,” said attorney Ward. “Sometimes you’ve got to go in make changes and adjustments to what you see going on and I think at this point, that’s where we’re at.” 

Ward said his concern is that parents may be using children to skirt around the law.  

“A lot of times the consequences that can be handed down to a juvenile offender are not much more than maybe an ankle monitor and people have caught on to that and because of that they’ve started to take advantage of that,” Ward added.   

Ward said it may be time for the legislature to step in to beef up penalties when it’s determined that parents are in fact pulling the strings of certain crimes that involved children. 

“I think one of the ways to try and address it is where you can show or prove that they actually intentionally used the children or put them up to doing the crime, I think there should be some serious consequences for that and I think that if you did that you would maybe put a stop to some of it,” said Ward. 

After seeing the video in this particular case, Ward told WAFB’s Scottie Hunter that he believes this crime would qualify for what he has in mind with those strengthened penalties. He added that if nothing is done, those types of crimes will only get worse before they get better.

”When it becomes known that the consequences for those actions aren’t necessarily there, people begin to take more risks because they don’t feel like they have as much to lose,” said Ward.

Ward said there has been some talk about increasing penalties for certain crimes in the past, but he hopes this recent situation will be enough to get lawmakers to act when they head back to the capitol for their next regular session.

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