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Jewish World Review August 6, 2001 / 17 Menachem-Av, 5761

Bob Greene

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Consumer Reports

They aren't required to post any bond -- GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- Jamie G. Henry, 24, and his wife, Billie D. Henry, 25, had been arrested and charged with felonies in connection with the alleged torture by cattle prod of the 8-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl who trusted them as parents.

As we have been reporting this week, Jamie Henry -- the stepfather of the boy and father of the girl -- stood accused of using the electrified cattle prod to discipline the children for "not obeying" and "not completing their chores." Mrs. Henry, the mother of both children, was accused of allowing the torture to go on -- sheriff's investigators said she handed the prod to her husband so he could threaten the children.

Jamie Henry, according to Hall County Sheriff's Lt. Jim Castleberry and deputy prosecutor Kay Tracy, beat the children as often as two to three times a week with his hands, a belt, shoes and plastic hangers. He allegedly tied the boy's wrists and ankles tightly together, and locked the child outside in the dark during the winter. The child told a protective services worker that his stepfather tied him to a tree while the child was barefoot.

It was the alleged use of the cattle prod that troubled prosecutors the most. The electrified prod, according to Lt. Castleberry, was of the kind meant to stun 2,000-pound bulls into submission. The 8-year-old boy weighed approximately 60 pounds; his sister weighed approximately 40 pounds.

So Mr. and Mrs. Henry were arrested. The children were placed in protective custody.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry went to court. The bail requirement placed on them was . . .


They were released on their own recognizance. They went home.

While declining to comment on the absence of bail, deputy prosecutor Tracy told us: "Bail is used for two reasons: if a person is considered a flight risk, or if the person is considered a danger to the community." Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Henry were considered neither.

A case can be made that Mr. and Mrs. Henry might potentially be considered a danger to at least two members of the community: two young witnesses--the 8-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl whose testimony could put Mr. and Mrs. Henry in prison. This is a sparsely populated area of central Nebraska; there are only slightly more than 50,000 people in all of Hall County. It would not be difficult for Mr. and Mrs. Henry to find out where the children are living.

Deputy prosecutor Tracy pointed out that Mr. and Mrs. Henry are not supposed to have any contact with the children. But of course, they were not supposed to torture the children with a cattle prod, either.

So the children's lives have been completely disrupted -- for telling the authorities about the alleged torture, they have been taken from their home and placed in state-ordered foster care. There is another Henry child -- a 2-year-old girl who is not considered to be a victim of abuse. She was taken from the home, too.

It is not known whether the children have been allowed to stay together. Kathie Osterman, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, told us that under Nebraska law she could not provide any information about the children, or what has happened to them.

Many states have such laws; the laws are often said to be "for the protection of the children." Evidently when children are tortured with an electrified cattle prod, beaten, and tied at the wrists and ankles, the threat to their "protection" is not the torture itself, but the prospect of the public knowing whether they are now safe and healing.

So Mr. and Mrs. Henry were allowed to go home without having to post a penny in bail. The children were taken away. What are the children to think of a legal system that asks them to go to teachers or police officers if they are being hurt -- and then, when the children believe what they are told, and ask for help, the courts make decisions like this?

But it would get worse. Mr. and Mrs. Henry were about to appear before a Hall County judge for a preliminary hearing. What happened at that hearing -- and how Mrs. Henry walked free without having to stand trial -- will be reported in tomorrow's column.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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