A Canton, Ohio man was recently sentenced to a month in jail after reportedly making fun of a girl with cerebral palsy. Yes, you read that right; it happened here in the United States, a place where Americans are supposed to have freedom of speech via First Amendment rights. The details of this story indicate that the man only made fun of and mocked the child — and while this is deplorable and unforgivable behavior, it doesn’t seem like it’s grounds for criminal prosecution.
Judge John A. Poulos sentenced 43-year-old William Bailey to the maximum sentence of a month in jail after he took a reduced misdemeanor with a plea deal — he pleaded ‘no contest’ for the lowered charges of ‘disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing.‘
These charges stem from an October incident that was captured on a mobile phone’s camera. William Bailey was seen making fun of a 10-year-old girl with a limp — a limp caused by cerebral palsy. He was making fun of her by mocking her walk, walking in an exaggerated manner as if to parody the child. William Bailey claims that he did this in response to the girl picking on his nine-year-old son. He has since apologized to the girl and her family.
Did William Bailey really commit a crime?
While the man is certainly guilty of being a world class douche bag, it truly doesn’t seem like he committed a crime. According to news reports, he didn’t threaten this child. He didn’t pose himself as an imminent threat of danger or physical harm on the child or anyone else around them for that matter. He only mocked her limp so as to pick on the girl — and allegedly in response to the child’s own bullying of his son, who is younger than she.
Was he socially in the right for mocking the disabled child? Absolutely not, and he deserves to be disowned as a friend or loved one by anyone who has sense in Ohio who might know him. However, it seems that these charges he has been convicted of are direct violations of his First Amendment rights. Since when is it illegal to publicly mock someone without threatening them? Since when do charges of disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing apply to making fun of the way someone walks? When you punish people for this type of behavior, you set up society to fail and make way for a slippery slope that will eventually include punishment for expressing other Constitutional rights.
Crime analyst & profiler Chelsea Hoffman can be found on Huffington Post or Chelsea Hoffman: Case to Case. You can follow her on Twitter @TheRealChelseaH or contact her via her personal blog. Fan the Facebook page for updates on missing persons cases, issues in civil rights and details on Chelsea’s fiction works.