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DALLAS — A Texas father was found not guilty this week for taking his tween daughter's phone away after finding inappropriate text messages.
Ronald Jackson found what he considered rude and inappropriate texts on his 12-year-old's phone in September 2013, WFAA.com reports. The girl's mother, Michelle Steppe, thought Jackson overstepped his boundaries and had police go and ask for the phone back, saying the phone belonged to her. Jackson refused.
"At that point, I decided the police don't interfere with my ability to parent my daughter," Jackson told WFAA.com.
After receiving a notice of theft of property for $50 in January 2014, Jackson got an attorney. Prosecutors offered Jackson a plea deal to return the phone but he decided to take the case to trial. In the meantime, Steppe, who is married to a police officer, quietly had the case moved to Dallas County and an arrest warrant was issued for Jackson. He was arrested in the middle of the night in April 2015 and taken to jail, Yahoo Parenting reports, but was able to make the $1,500 bail. He was charged with theft of property of at least $50 but under $500, a Class B misdemeanor, WFAA.com reported.
Jackson's daughter, now 15, testified against her father during the two-day trial this week. The jury was ordered by Judge Lisa Green to find Jackson not guilty because the state had insufficient evidence, WTSP.com reports. Steppe told WFAA.com she was unhappy with the verdict since she was the one to buy the phone, which is still in Jackson's possession.
"Even if you purchase something with your own money and have a receipt, it's not yours," Steppe said. "Someone can take it from you."
Commenters on Facebook were mostly supportive of Jackson.
"A disgrace and even more so of her mother with her being 12 years," wrote one Facebook user.
"I don't understand how disciplining your kid has to go to court," another user wrote. "All he did was take her phone, to teach his daughter a lesson and he went to jail for that?"
Jackson says he no longer has a relationship with his daughter.