High Court: Child Endangerment Law Applies to More Than Just Sex Abuse Cases

Boston Globe

July 31, 2008

The state's highest court ruled today that a law enacted after the clergy sex abuse scandal to penalize people who endanger a child applies to more than just sex abuse cases.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the case of Thomas Hendricks, who led Mashpee police on a chase down a rural road in 2004 while his 3-year-old daughter was in his car. Officers pursued Hendricks into the woods after he left his vehicle and found him, lying on his back, with the child on his chest.

Hendricks admitted to police that he should not have been driving like that with his daughter in the vehicle, the court said in its opinion.

Hendricks claimed that the law, passed in 2002, was aimed only at people whose conduct exposed a child to substantial risk of serious injury from physical or sexual abuse and not from other harms, the court said.

The court upheld Hendricks's conviction, however, saying that the "plain language of the statute enacted sweeps more broadly to proscribe all wanton and reckless conduct that creates a 'substantial (and unjustifiable) risk of serious bodily injury' to a child."


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