Monday, June 24

10-Year-Old Arrested for Public Urination Was Treated Like an Adult Criminal, Lawyer Says

The mother of a 10-year-old Mississippi boy who was arrested after urinating behind her car is refusing to sign a probation agreement because the terms that were set are of a severity typically reserved for adults, the family’s lawyer said Thursday.

The 90-day probation agreement stipulated that the boy, Quantavious Eason, who is Black, would have to submit to random drug tests, observe an 8 p.m. curfew and meet with a probation officer once a month, among other requirements, according to Carlos Moore, the lawyer.

The boy would also be required to write a two-page report on Kobe Bryant, Mr. Moore said.

Latonya Eason, the boy’s mother, had initially agreed to the probation during a hearing in Tate County Chancery Court on Dec. 12, but upon reading the full terms and consulting with Mr. Moore this week, she decided not to sign and instead to fight for the charge to be dismissed, he said. NBC News reported on the case this week.

“This boy is not a criminal,” Mr. Moore said. “He should not have to go through all of this.”

The legal battle stems from an encounter that Quantavious and his mother had with the police on Aug. 10 in Senatobia, Miss., a small city 40 miles south of Memphis, Tenn. The family, which lives in a neighboring county, believes the manner in which the police treated the boy stemmed from racism.

The boy was waiting for his mother in her car, which she had parked outside an office while she was in a meeting inside, Mr. Moore said.

Quantavious saw no public restrooms nearby, Mr. Moore said, “so he decided that he could not wait and he got out of his mom’s car, opened the door and turned his back to the road and discreetly used the restroom.”

A police officer saw the boy and approached him, Mr. Moore said, and went inside the office to get his mother, according to the lawyer. Ms. Eason scolded her son when she came outside, he said.

The situation, she thought, was over, Mr. Moore said — a proportionate slap on the wrist for a seemingly minor and common offense.

Then four more police officers, including a lieutenant, arrived, according to Mr. Moore.

The lieutenant ordered that the boy, a third-grader, be taken in a patrol car to the police station for referral to a juvenile court. At one point, he was held in a cell for up to an hour while the paperwork in the case was processed, Mr. Moore said.

“The only thing we can point to is racism because all the officers were white, and this was a Black little boy,” Mr. Moore said.

Quantavious was charged as a juvenile with being “a child in need of supervision,” Mr. Moore said. Mississippi law allows police to refer children as young as 7 to youth court if they do something that would be considered illegal for an adult.

But days after the arrest, the Senatobia police chief, Richard Chandler, said in a statement that the situation had been poorly handled.

“Under these circumstances, it was an error in judgment for us to transport the child to the police station since the mother was present at that time as a reasonable alternative,” the chief said.

A week later, he announced that one of the officers involved no longer worked for the department and that the others would be disciplined. He also said that the department would undergo juvenile training departmentwide, “as we do every year.”

The experience continues to haunt Quantavious, who has begun seeing a counselor, Mr. Moore said.

“He doesn’t trust law enforcement anymore,” Mr. Moore said. “He doesn’t even like to go to football games or sporting events where the cops are now.”

Mr. Moore said that he had filed a motion to dismiss the charge against Quantavious and that a court hearing was set for Jan. 16.

“Probation is too much for what this boy did,” Mr. Moore said. “We don’t want to get him acclimated to the criminal justice system.”

If the motion is denied, he said, the family plans to take the case to trial.

“We believe that it was already shown that it was a wrongful arrest,” Mr. Moore said. “That’s why people were disciplined. So I’m surprised the prosecutor is still pushing this case.”

Calls and emails to the Senatobia Police Department and the prosecutor handling the case were not immediately returned.

Aside from the battle in juvenile court, the Easons plan to sue the city and the police department in both federal and state court, he added.

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.