Prosecutor defends charging mom who took teen’s phone

Ottawa County

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ottawa County prosecutor on Wednesday defended smartphone theft charges against a mom, saying his office had no idea it was a dispute over parenting.

But it’s not only the misdemeanor larceny charges, which were dismissed Tuesday as Jodie May’s trial was starting, that the mom questions.

“I would like answers on why it got so far and how it got this far where this happened within my home, I’m disciplining my child, then I’m the one being handcuffed,” she said.

Records show Ottawa County deputies arrested her May 12, the day before Mother’s Day, several weeks after her ex-husband claimed she had stolen his smartphone. May, who has remarried, said she was nursing her 4-week-old baby when an Ottawa County deputy knocked on her door.

“He had told me that he was going to arrest me, and I asked him if I could turn myself in on that Monday by myself, that I had a new baby. She wasn’t taking the bottle yet,” she said. “He said it doesn’t work that way, it was a slow night, so he was out doing his list of warrants and he was scheduled to pick me up.”

The deputy took her in handcuffs to jail, where she said she stayed in a holding cell for two hours before posting $200 bond.

“I was mortified, I was embarrassed,” May said. “We just moved here last year. I was very embarrassed for myself and my kids and my family.”

She said she got a letter the following week advising her of the warrant and asking her to turn herself in.

Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker told 24 Hour News 8 that the arresting deputy was doing his job. As for the charges, the sheriff said, that’s a question for the prosecutor.

The mom said she took an iPhone 6 from her 15-year-old daughter in April after the girl got in trouble in school.

“I was just being a mom, a concerned parent and disciplining my daughter,” May said.

In an exchange of emails, Ottawa County Prosecutor Ronald Frantz said the mom never told the original investigating deputy that she had taken the phone to punish her daughter. In fact, nothing like that is mentioned in the report.

“Clearly, if a parent takes away a child’s cell phone as a matter of reasonable parental discipline, not only would we not charge, but the police would not request a charge,” Frantz wrote in an email.

But the mom told 24 Hour News 8 she did tell that to the original deputy.

Her ex-husband, who reported the alleged theft, told deputies he owned the phone. May says the phone belonged to her daughter, a gift from her ex-husband.

“He gave it to her as a Christmas present,” she said, adding that her daughter paid for her share of the phone bill.

“I believe the prosecutor knew the whole time,” May said. “It was an easy question to have answered. She (the assistant prosecutor) could have asked my ex-husband, his wife, me.

“I think this all could have been avoided if she would have dotted her i’s and crossed her t’s, she would have found the answers where everything could have been avoided.”

Just minutes into Tuesday’s trial in Ottawa County District Court in Hudsonville, the assistant prosecutor announced it was, indeed, the daughter’s phone, not the ex-husband’s.

“I believe that changes the case significantly,” Assistant Prosecutor Sarah Matwiejczyk told the judge. “Therefore we’re requesting that the charges be dismissed.”

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