The Appellate Court has ruled that statements made by Tina Harbert may be admitted into evidence once again in a child abuse case that took the media by storm last year. James Harbert, the Spring Arbor father who is accused of choking his son to the point of unconsciousness and whipping him with a dog leash, was charged with both First and Second Degree Child Abuse. Sometime later, his wife Tina, was accused of failing to protect her sons.
Tina is alleged to have made several statements to a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office detective while sitting in the officer’s car after witnessing her husband’s arrest on November 17th of 2015. In those statements, which were recorded, Tina is said to have shared information that her attorney believed compromised her case. A motion was filed to suppress the statements and have them struck from evidence.
The motion to suppress was granted by the Jackson County Circuit Court, based on the argument that Tina had not been read her rights, and felt compelled to talk to the investigator because she was locked in the back of his car. Prior to the interview, however, the officer told Tina that she was not under arrest, was free to leave at any time, and that the interview was entirely voluntary.
In light of this, the Court of Appeals ruled that the statements may be included in evidence during the trial. The reason for this is because the Appellate Court Judges believe that any reasonable person would know that they were free to leave at any time.
The case, which has been ongoing for over a year now, made headline in late 2015 when the alleged victim’s grandparents reported the abuse to the police. According to court records, the signs of abuse were first discovered by the older boy’s grandparents. The 12-year-old allegedly asked for his grandparents help in removing his pajama pants, which he said had adhered to his skin. Once his pants were removed, however, it was revealed that his buttocks was red, raw, and tender.
The grandparents contacted the mother, Tina, and asked what had caused this. Her explanation was that, while the 10-year-old boy was fine, the older boy’s bottom had become raw and inflamed from too many spankings. Disturbed by this revelation, the boy’s grandparents kept the older boy in their custody for a month, before they finally decided to contact the police and file a report.
In his interview with child welfare workers, the older boy claimed that the spankings were the least of his concerns when it came to his father. He said that James Harbert choked him, slapped him, whipped his back with a dog leash, spanked him with a 2″x 4″, and knocked him out on a number of occasions. His mother was not mentioned in the allegations. However, in her statements Tina Harbert allegedly told the officer that she knew about the abuse and had not stepped in to stop it.
Both James and Tina Harbert are facing two counts each of First and Second Degree Child Abuse. In the event that they are found guilty by a jury, they are facing the possibility of up to life in prison. We will be following the trial, which is scheduled to begin in the Saginaw County Circuit Court before the Honorable John G. McBain. We will make every attempt to keep you updated as this case develops.