Childrearing

These Parents Actually Took Each Other to Court Over Their Daughter’s Stupid iPhone, and Their Kid Is the One Who Really Lost

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACo-parenting after a breakup is tough. In a perfect world, parents would remember that once they have a child they are stuck in each other’s lives forever, and do their best to stay civil and work together to make sure that their children are raised in a supportive and loving environment. Staying together for the sake of the children is probably not a good idea, but there’s certainly something to be said for not having your ex partner arrested on garbage charges for the sake of the children. One mother reportedly decided that was not how she wanted to roll recently, though, and she actually had her daughter’s father arrested for “stealing” their teen’s phone, and then he allegedly escalated the situation by insisting the issue go to trial, and now everything is a years-long disaster, both parents look like petty jerks, and the only person who really suffered any consequences is the child.

According to Yahoo Parenting, Ronald Jackson says he confiscated their 12-year-old daughter’s phone in 2013 after he found “rude and inappropriate” text messages on it and decided that she was going to lose her phone privileges.

The girl’s mother, Michelle Steppe, decided that it was theft for him to take the phone, which she had allegedly bought and paid for, and she actually sent the police to Jackson’s house to get the phone back. According to KHOU, Steppe is married to an officer with the local police department, .

When the police showed up to demand the return of the 12-year-old’s phone, Jackson was allegedly ticked. He reportedly decided the police were not going to tell him how to parent his daughter, so he allegedly refused to hand the iPhone 4 over. (The incident happened in 2013, so the phone is extremely old now and this horrible situation has been going on for a ridiculously long time.)

A few months after that, Jackson says he received a citation for theft of  property worth less than $50, and the citation allegedly offered a plea deal that sounds like it basically consisted of officials saying, “Just give back the phone so we can forget about this.”

Instead, Jackson allegedly lawyered up and demanded a jury trial. I suspect at least one person at the city attorney’s office said, “You have got to be fucking kidding me with this shit,” at that point. But the charges were real and everybody had to go forward. Police say they tried several times to just get the phone back to Steppe, but Jackson refused.

A warrant was issued for Jackson’s arrest in April, and he reportedly wound up paying $1,500 bail to get out of jail. $1,500 in 2015 for a 2013 iPhone 4. This whole thing sounds like it was really irksome to all the officials involved in what was essentially a petty family dispute.

“We do not like these kinds of instances to go into the criminal justice system,”  said Detective Lyle Gensler with the Grand Prairie police. “We prefer to keep out of it and the phone be returned and let the parents, the two adults, and let them work it out among themselves.”

The adults seem to have decided not to be adults about it, though, and the issue actually went before a judge and jury. The couple’s now 15-year-old daughter had to testify about the day her dad took her iPhone 4 away when she was 12.

“It was the last thing as a mother I wanted my daughter to go through,” said Steppe, as though she had no role in any of this.

Jackson also bemoaned the loss of any possible relationship with his daughter after all this ridiculousness.

“I have to separate myself from them,” Jackson said of his ex and his teen daughter.  “I can’t ever have a relationship with them again.”

It’s bewildering the way Jackson and Steppe talk about this situation as though they were not the adults in charge, and as though the two of them were not directly and solely responsible for everything that happened. The woman who allegedly had her daughter’s father arrested for theft for taking his daughter’s phone and the man who allegedly demanded the issue go to court in front of a jury are the only ones who caused any of this. The police, the district attorney, and the judge seem to have wanted absolutely nothing to do with this stupid, stupid drama.

The judge ordered the jury to find Jackson not guilty, and Steppe seems to think that is unfair and un-American.

“Even if you purchase something with your own money and have a receipt, it’s not yours,” Steppe said. “Someone can take it from you.”

It would have been pretty great if at any point in the past three years Jackson and Steppe had decided to prioritize their daughter’s feelings and her relationship with her father over petty bickering over a stupid phone, but it seems like they decided that clogging up the legal system and aggressive posturing was a good use of time and resources.

Even though Jackson won–and he still has the phone–he’s not ready to let the issue drop. His lawyer says he plans to file a federal complaint for civil rights violations by the police and the city attorney’s office. I feel awful for this 15-year-old who has had to live with this drama for the past three years, especially since it shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Photo: Fertning/iStockPhoto/Getty Images