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A New York City woman who directed her 12-year-old son to rob an East Village bank is guilty of not only neglect but also abuse, the Appellate Division, 1st Department, has ruled. “A child need not sustain physical injury to support a finding of abuse, ‘as long as the evidence demonstrates that the parent sufficiently endangered the child by creating a substantial risk of injury,’” the five-judge panel unanimously held in In re Rashard D., 5150, quoting Matter of Angelique H., 215 AD 2d 318. “Respondent intentionally put her child in such a situation,” the panel added. Tamara Rivers pleaded guilty in 2003 to grand larceny and child endangerment after instructing her son Rashard to rob a Citibank branch. “On the day of the robbery, the child arrived by taxi and instructed the driver to wait for him,” the panel wrote. Rashard entered the bank and passed a note to the teller that read, “Give me $30,000 or I will shoot!” Though only 12, Rashard stood 5 feet 5 inches and weighed 175 pounds. Only his SpongeBob SquarePants socks betrayed his true age, witnesses said. The teller handed over the money, which the boy brought to his mother, who was receiving medical treatment at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Rivers reportedly told the police that she spent her share on school supplies and Dom Perignon champagne. The teller, Monique Gray, also pleaded guilty to grand larceny after the police determined that she and Rivers developed the plan together. Manhattan Family Court Judge Sara P. Schechter found that Rivers had neglected Rashard, but declined to enter a finding of abuse. The judge said “the risk of physical injury was too attenuated.” New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services appealed. Although a finding of abuse could serve as evidence in a parental rights termination proceeding, the city sought a reversal primarily to set a precedent, according to Assistant Corporation Counsel Marta Ross, who represented Children’s Services in its appeal. RULING’S IMPACT “The bigger picture for us is the future impact this case has on situations in which a parent sends a child to commit a crime,” Ross said. While the city does not track the frequency of cases in which a parent directs or instructs a child to commit a crime, Ross said that Children’s Services sees “a significant number.” The typical case, she said, involves a parent requiring a child either to transport drugs or to steal. “We’re always encountering situations in which parents use their children as mules,” said Ross. If no other allegations of abuse arise, Rashard D. may have no ramifications for its parties, she said. The appeal was not spurred by reports of ongoing abuse; Rashard currently lives with his grandmother. The Appellate Division ruling does however set the precedent the city sought. The decision relied on Family Court Act �1012(e)(ii)’s definition of an “abused child” as one whose parent “creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical injury … likely to cause death or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical and emotional health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.” Such a finding must be based on a preponderance of the evidence. As evidence of such “substantial risk,” Children’s Services offered a detective’s testimony regarding standard protocol for bank robberies. “The testimony at the hearing established that the police protocol was to secure the bank and to protect the safety of the police by whatever means necessary,” the panel wrote. “Indeed, the detective testified that to secure the bank and to protect lives, good and accepted police procedure in this case would be to enter with guns drawn or at the ready.” That Rashard was not shot, the panel noted, did not lessen the severity of the danger created by Rivers. “He was lucky,” the panel wrote. The Appellate Division reversed the Family Court’s ruling, and remanded the case for an entry of a finding of abuse. Cynthia Yahia of the Legal Aid Society, who represents Rashard, said the decision did not surprise her. “I suspected that the panel had made up their mind before hearing arguments,” she said.

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