A Texas father has been found not guilty of theft after he took his 12-year-old daughter's phone away as punishment. Ronald Jackson, 36, had been charged with theft of property of at least $50 but under $500 after taking his daughter's iPhone 4 when he found an inappropriate text in September 2013, WFAA reported.
A judge ordered for Jackson to be found not guilty on Tuesday citing insufficient evidence to continue the case. Jackson had taken his daughter's phone away to teach her lesson after reportedly finding a text he thought was rude regarding another woman.
'I was being a parent,' he told CBSDFW. 'You know, a child does something wrong, you teach them what’s right. 'You tell them what they did wrong and you give them a punishment to show that they shouldn’t be doing that.'
The girl's mother, Michelle Steppe, said in court on Monday that she called police that same day who then went to Jackson's home and asked for the iPhone back, but the father refused. 'At that point, I decided the police don't interfere with my ability to parent my daughter,' Jackson told WFAA.
Steppe said that she was upset because the property was not his to take as it belongs to her and that she maintained the cell phone plans under her name. 'You can't take someone's property, regardless if you're a parent or not,' she told WFAA.
Jackson and Steppe are no longer a couple and were never married but had their daughter together, who is now 15. Steppe's spouse is a Grand Prairie police officer, CBSDFW reported. Three months following the 2013 phone incident, the father was sent a citation in the mail for theft of property less than $50 in value, a Class C misdemeanor, according to WFAA.
Jackson, who was offered a plea deal in January 2014 if he returned the phone, hired a lawyer and requested a jury trial. The city attorney's office requested for the case to be dismissed and refiled the case with a harsher offense, a Class B misdemeanor, punishable to up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine, WFAA reported.
A warrant was issued for Jackson's arrest and he was taken into custody at his home in April 2015 before he posted a bail of $1,500 to get out of jail, according to his lawyer, Cameron Gray. Over the course of the two-day trial, the teen testified in court against her father about the incident. Jackson still has the phone, according to WFAA.
Steppe noted that she was not happy with the verdict because she had purchased the cell phone. 'Even if you purchase something with your own money and have a receipt, it's not yours,' Steppe told WFAA. 'Someone can take it from you.'
Jackson reportedly did not become apart of his daughter's life until she was seven years old and following this incident, he said that he 'can't ever have a relationship with them again.' His lawyer is now planning to file a federal complaint for civil rights violations over the way Jackson was treated by police and the city attorney's office, according to WFAA.