Asbury Park Press Editorial -
Some legal cases simply make your blood boil, particularly cases when law enforcement either cannot or will not press charges on behalf of the victim.
One such case — one of the most egregious we can ever recall — is that of Parker Drake, 19, a developmentally disabled young man. Last month, he accepted a dare from two “friends,” Nicholas Formica, 20, and Christopher Tilton, 19, both of Howell, to jump off the Manasquan jetty into the 30-degree water for $20 and two packs of cigarettes.
While he fought in subzero water to get to dry land, they laughed at his distress and filmed his struggle.
What were the two men charged with? Nothing.
Local police and the Monmouth County Prosecutor said their hands were tied. Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni explained the decision not to bring criminal charges against the two men this way: “We thoroughly explored it and found there is no criminal statute that fits the conduct,” he said. “It appears to be men exhibiting bad judgment.”
Bad judgment? They easily could have killed Drake. Apparently, according to the prosecutor, because Drake was an adult, and because he agreed to the dare, the two men could not be charged.
It’s hard to believe the police and prosecutor couldn’t find some statute related to bullying, reckless endangerment, bias crimes (against the disabled and incompetent) or some broader protections for the developmentally disabled that couldn’t have applied to this situation.
But they didn’t. As a result, Drake’s mother, Christine Marshall, was left to fend for herself. She hired an attorney, Lisa Krenkel of Allenhurst, and after being put through hoops in municipal court, she was finally able to file a complaint against the two men for disorderly conduct.
If, in fact, no law applies to this case, it’s outrageous. The two police departments involved and the county prosecutor should be leading a campaign to get the state Legislature to amend the laws to protect the developmentally disabled against the type of inhumane treatment perpetrated against Drake — whether the victims are 9 or 90. Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, who has introduced legislation to protect special needs students in the past, would be an ideal point person in Trenton.
The only thing more disgraceful than the actions of the two Howell men was the ordeal Drake’s mother has had to go through on her own to seek justice. Drake and Marshall say they want justice and to raise awareness of the need for unambiguous laws to protect developmentally disabled people from such situations.
The two Howell men deserve to have the book thrown at them. If the book doesn’t apply to these heinous acts, it needs to be rewritten. Local law enforcement and legislators need to work together to ensure justice is served in this case, and in any other similar cases involving the developmentally disabled in the future.