Skip to content
Phone. Image courtesy of Windyboy/Shutterstock.
Naked Security Naked Security

Dad found not guilty for taking away his daughter’s iPhone

She was reportedly organizing an attack on another kid, so he took it away as punishment. Jailed though he was, he's still got the phone.

Have you ever taken your child’s mobile phone away, as punishment?

Be careful: it could get you thrown in jail.

That’s what happened to Ronald Jackson, a 36-year-old dad who took away his daughter’s iPhone 4 in 2013, when she was 12, after finding rude texts she’d sent about another girl.

He took the phone away to teach her a lesson, he said.

Jackson, from Grand Prairie, Texas, told CBS that it seemed to him to be simply a case of a parent disciplining his child:

 I was being a parent. 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.

According to Mashable, Jackson’s lawyer, Cameron Gray, said his client’s daughter had been trying to organize an attack on another minor, and that’s why Jackson took her iPhone away.

The girl’s mother didn’t quite see it that way.

In fact, Michelle Steppe saw it as theft and called police. Around 2 am, Jackson heard a knock on his door.

It was Grand Prairie police, asking for the phone.

Jackson refused.

What he told CBS:

I didn’t want the police department telling me how to parent my child. It made no sense to me for them to show up and make a big deal out of something that was a small thing.

I couldn’t believe they would go to this extent for a cell phone. It didn’t seem right.

It got ever more not right: he was handcuffed and hauled off to jail, where he spent the night before paying $1,500 in bail money.

The mom’s rationale: “Number one, the property belongs to me,” Michelle Steppe told WFAA News8.

Number two, she couldn’t tell her daughter that what her dad did was OK, she said:

You can’t take someone’s property, regardless if you’re a parent or not.

The station reports that three months after the phone incident, Jackson received a citation in the mail, for theft of property less than $50 in value, a Class C misdemeanor.

Court documents reportedly show that the city attorney’s office offered a plea deal in January 2014 if Jackson returned the phone.

He did not return the phone. Instead, he hired an attorney and requested a trial by jury.

That’s when the city attorney’s office ratcheted it up a notch, asking that the case be dismissed and refiled as a more stringent Class B misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

On Tuesday, Jackson was found not guilty.

Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Lisa Green ordered the jury to find Jackson not guilty after ruling that the state failed to present sufficient evidence to continue the case.

Steppe told News8 that the verdict confused her, given that she bought the phone and that the coverage plans were under her name.

Even if you purchase something with your own money and have a receipt, it’s not yours. Someone can take it from you.

Jackson told reporters that the saga has alienated him from his daughter and her mother:

I have to separate myself from them. I can’t ever have a relationship with them again.

But it’s not going to stop there.

Jackson’s lawyer, Gray, said he plans to file a federal complaint for civil rights violations for the way Jackson was treated by the Grand Prairie Police Department and the city attorney’s office.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Jackson still hasn’t given back the phone.

Readers, who do you sympathize with in this case?

On one hand, we have a dad who deserves credit for attempting to stop what sounds like a brewing case of cyberbullying.

That’s good, responsible parenting.

On the other hand, we have a woman who paid for the phone and its coverage plan.

Shouldn’t she have some say in what’s done with it?

More than anything, I sympathize with the police, who had to put themselves between these warring parents as they tried to get the phone back.

News8 quotes Grand Prairie Detective Lyle Gensler:

We do not like these kinds of instances to go into the criminal justice system. We prefer to keep it out and the phone be returned and let the parents, the two adults, work it out among themselves.

Work it out? Well, that’s a pipe dream, obviously!

Readers, do you have any horror stories about the repercussions of taking gadgets away from kids?

Head south for the comments section, and do tell!

Image of phone courtesy of Windyboy /


If you’re in a long-term relationship, and you’re still worried about what belongs to you and what belongs to your partner, then there’s something wrong. It would suggest that you’re already planning for what happens when you break up.


Mom is being a moron. She brought her personal feelings into a teachable moment. Plus she is contradicting herself. If her whole argument is that the phone is “hers” then the father didn’t take it from “her”. The idea that the father shouldn’t have taken it from the daughter is moot. It’s also irrational. Children don’t have ownership rights. Their own name can’t appear on a title without a co-signer, etc. Because children can’t sign contracts (they’re not legally binding). They don’t pay property tax, etc.

If she was mad at him about it, they should have talked about it, but dragged out this farce in front of the kid. All it taught her was that she is entitled to things that she’s not.


In fairness, the article did read like they were already divorced/separated, which makes the fact that she called police on her ex more logical. They were dispatched to HIS home, not their home.

This sounds to me like it started as a parent doing the right thing, and then it became about a dispute between two adults who weren’t in the greatest of standings before the incident.


This is more a case of two adult children who can’t get along for the sake of the child they made and have now introduced to broken home nonsense. This father should make better choices in mating partners. This mother needs to grow the heck up and stop acting like a spoiled child – be a parent not your kid’s friend.


For any DA that would file charges in such a situation, I would have a hard time having sympathy if they were tarred-and-feathered.


Seems like the father tried to stop his daughter being anti-social – it can’t be easy to discover this, and even harder to take some sort of stand and action. Could he and should he have done anything different with the benefit of hindsight? Maybe next morning to sit down with his daughter and explain what is and is not acceptable. But by then, daughter and/or mother had ratcheted this up to be about their rights taking precedence over any responsibilities, and so the die was cast.
I wonder what the mother would think if her daughter was on the receiving end of cyber-bullying? Presumably she would be taking the perpetrators parents to court to (guess what) get their phones taken off them.


Lisa, I disagree on the police sympathy. They (specifically the mother’s husband) should have never gotten involved, so that’s entirely on him/them. As for who’s right and wrong? Well, I’m no expert, but put in the dad’s shoes I would have done exactly the same thing. Without the ability to suspend the daughter’s cell phone (since it wasn’t on his account), confiscating it was his only recourse. It’s no different than grounding a child for breaking curfew in that regard. And who knows? He might have stopped another child getting seriously injured or worse!! The only thing I might have done differently, and this entirely depends on how my relationship was with my ex, is call them myself and discuss the situation directly with them AFTER taking the phone in the short-term, and coming to a long-term arrangement with them. But this might not have been possible depending on their relationship now, which was probably not too positive even before this it sounds like.


I am going to start off with saying: “Can’t fix stupid – can work with dumb, but can’t fix stupid”!
Come on – what the kid did was wrong and everyone knows it (unless they are also stupid). In all of this, I never once heard that the dad was unwilling to give the phone to the mom, just unwilling to give it to the girl.
Anyway, I can’t believe this ever went to court (especially in Texas)! Enough said!


Another example of divorced parents not having a meeting of the minds for the benefit of their child and the rest of society. It’s the typical dysfunctional American story we’ve all heard since the 1960s, but with 21st century technology.


We don’t know what the daughter was planning, maybe it was cyberbullying, but here in (3rd world) USA, groups (gangs) of girls have been meting out retribution on other girls. Maybe the father stopped the girl from committing assault. But in Texas, maybe they were all carrying guns.


$50 iPhone?…tell us where to get ours! :) Wondering if the domestic dispute would have ever begun had it been a different brand of phone? Mom, for $50, get the kid another phone, and eat the humble apple iPhone pie. Domestic child rearing dispute fumbled by the police… should of been in small claims court instead, police will have to carry a “blue book” for phones now to pre-judge for a misdemeanor prior to arrest. (SEE Judge Judy!) grin … now for the daughter’s pre-meditated cyber-bullying…and her friends…>>>>


One of the main points was left out of this article. The mom is now married to a police officer in that works at the police station that made the arrest. The mom should have backed the dad 100%. This little girl sounds like she is on the way to being one of the mean girls in high school.


The daughter was planning to abuse another minor? If so her Mum, had she prevented the removal of the phone, would appear to have been complicit in her daughter’s planned and deeply harmful misconduct. Seems daughter learned her conduct and principles from Mum, and further that she was being used by Mum as a convenient weapon in her own war against Dad. Mum was showing zero regard for the future well-being or either her daughter or her daughter’s target child.


(Being sarcastic) Guess next time he should tell the stupid mom, either I’m taking the phone away or reporting her to the school or whoever I need to that she is cyber bullying another individual and the mother insists on letting the daughter keep her phone so she can continue bullying. Then let the parents of the victim go after the mom


Good man! He deserves a medal! Because of this I would never give it back (in one piece that is). Since when do kids have a right to own a phone? Parent should have a right to teach their kid right from wrong. That includes taking away the possessions regardless who bought them. Parents take care of the kids not the other way around. And if bimbo-mom wants to act the way she did, somebody needs to tell her that because of her actions, we (community) will have to deal with her spoiled brat. And I don’t know about you but I don’t like spoiled brats AT ALL.


This should never have escalated as it did. It’s as well the parents are separated/divorced (at least I suppose they are). Just think what message it would give a child if the parents were still together but giving such totally different messages to the child! I can’t believe the mother couldn’t even tell her child that what she had been doing was wrong and that her father’s response was quite appropriate!


Taking into consideration common sense, it’s hard to believe this would be classed as theft – withholding or confiscation should be a parents right, I would have thought. This approach would have calmed the situation.


It seems to me to be an issue for the mother to demand the phone be given to her, not her daughter. If the father was unwilling, she should have taken the matter up in small claims court, not through the local police station.

That being said, the father sounds like a reasonable and caring person and confiscating the phone was the right thing to do. The daughter appears to be growing up to be just like her mother, more’s the pity. I am glad to see that justice prevailed in this case. The prosecutor should never have taken on this case in the first place.


Lisa wrote “Readers, who do you sympathize with in this case?”

The father, of course. The mother is no more mature than the 12-year old daughter.


The mom is an opportunist who should have received a reprimand as she clearly used this as an opportunity to strike out at the father. What she should have done was to support him, as the kid was clearly misbehaving but it was more important to take a swipe at him — pathetic, I feel sorry for the child, she’s being given terrible lessons in how to behave and may well continue this shit in her own life. Sad, but glad the dad prevailed.


“You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Jackson still hasn’t given back the phone.”
I hope it was worth it, Jacko.
“I have to separate myself from them. I can’t ever have a relationship with them again.”
…Guess not.
I am fine with parents temporarily confiscating items from their children as punishment, but that phone belonged to his spouse. If they disagreed over whether the punishment was fair, they should have talked it over like responsible adults, but at the end of the day, the phone is the property of the wife. You have guardian over your child, but not your spouse. If she asks for it back, you hand it back.


The mother wasn’t his spouse; she was at this point married to one of the policemen at the precinct that arrested the husband. I think lines of communication between them had already long since worn thin. As such, it doesn’t sound like she ever asked for it back, but instead sent the police over to collect it when her daughter arrived home without it.

However, in retrospect, the father probably should have visited with the mother and her husband, and handed the phone directly back to the mother, after telling them what he had discovered. He should then have reported the incident to the child’s school to ensure they were aware as well.


Given that the mother was doing it with intention to undermine Dad’s discipline, I would have to disagree. He was looking out for the best interests of his daughter while she was just looking to undermine his authority in the situation, ignoring that her daughter was using the phone to possibly commit a crime. Had it been a weapon, would your opinion change?


The more plausible situation here is the petulant child wedging her parents further apart. She does knows her parents aren’t exactly nice to each other, she probably grew up with them shouting or whatever it is people do when they fall out of love.
When dad takes her iPhone away from her, being her mother’s daughter, runs to mum an tells her “Dad STOLE ma/yur aPhone”. From the W8 article Mum sounds like the kind of person to ask “why?” but still enlists the GP PD saying the “device was removed for disciplinary reasons.” Still for the cops to dispatch a unit they need to hear that magic words “stolen”.
On a side note it would be interesting to know is if the girl was staying at her dad’s or mum’s place. What sort of vindication would she feel seeing her dad taken away by cops.
Additionally, you have the mum, who is married to a GP PD officer, conflict of interest? Reminds me a bit of the conflict in Ant Man… .


How ironic, the Us Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to have as many guns as they can pay for, but give no right to bring up their children the way they see fit.It’s true: your freedom last only as long as you are willing to fight for it.


I know that in Texas, anyone cyberbullying can be charged with harassment, so what the girl was doing was illegal. The father absolutely did the right thing. By doing so, he prevented the daughter from further involvement in the problem (which may have saved her from trouble with her school as well as potential legal trouble), and also served the daughter a punishment. Having a cell phone (a smart phone, even) is a huge privilege for a 12 year old, and if they aren’t responsible enough to use it in a respectful manner, then they may need some time to mature before they can receive that privilege again. It seems to me the mother and father have a pretty messy relationship, and this was the mothers way of making herself look like the better parent in the daughters eyes.


I remember doing something like this before, but towards a teacher at school. I’m graduated now though. But it’s amusing, because they never tried to do that again to me.


Dad should have gone to his wife to discuss and mutually agree on the proper punishment for their daughter. Mom might have gone along with the punishment had she been given a say in the matter. Losing phone privileges for a few days would have reinforced parental guidance against mistreating others.


There are two points that it seems we need to know:
Are the parents separated or divorced?
If divorced, who has custody? If the mom, was the child in the father’s temporary custody (i.e. was it his week/weekend?)
There is one set of circumstances in which the mom would be right: divorced, and the child in her custodial care at the time of the incident. By custodial care, I mean officially, according to the custody agreement.
Except for that specific situation, the dad was right, police, daughter, and mom wrong, and the DA should be disbarred and fired.


The more prudent thing to have done may have been to simply notify the proper authorities about the potential bullying and not have taken the phone, since it only resulted in alienating his daughter, and she likely has another phone.


This is a case of two estranged parents using their child to continue their fight. It is not at all uncommon. Yes, her property, and yes, he should have turned the phone over to its true owner. But then they should have jointly parented this budding bully and put a stop to her activities together. That they let it go so far is only evidence that none of them are more mature than a 12 year old.


More like one reasonable parent trying to discipline a bully of a child and a total lunatic of a wife/Ex whatever she is.


There is more to this.

They were divorced and the mother has re-married to a Grand Prairie police officer. This in itself indicates that the officer overstepped the boundaries and abused his position to “get back at” his wife’s ex.


In some states, any property that is used to commit a crime (car, boat, house) can be confiscated without due process and the original owner must sue to get it back. To win the suit, the ex-owner must prove that the property in question is innocent. This is an unfortunate hangover of the failed war on drugs and has been widely abused by the state to confiscate property and auction it for profit, but I think that it could be quite sensibly in an incident such as this or any cyber-bullying case.


But according to the article, both people are still “arguing” over this petty issue. I don’t have an answer to that silliness. Maybe Stephen Hawking or someone on that level of smart can talk to those 2 people.


“But when Jackson’s ex-wife found out, whose spouse is a Grand Prairie police officer, the cops were called to get the phone from Jackson. He refused. ”
Seems like a case of abuse of police/relationship powers.
People report things stolen all the time, and normally the police do nothing. Sometimes, they’ll file a report. Going to actually arrest someone for a phone is abuse.

Then it gets weirder and the city attorney instead of being normal and dropping the whole thing ratcheted it up a notch. Crazy.


Dad’s right and this is all likely a glimpse into why Mom is no longer driving him crazy on a continuous basis. Get away from crazy however you can, far away!


Did anyone mention that the ex wife is married to a Grand Prarie cop? That’s the main factor in the citation and later arrest.


This so stupid, the father took the phone to prevent a crime from happening, good for him! I can’t believe the police/DA, would let themselves become involved in this domestic despute to that degree. I am apalled that the justice system in Texas misused their authority, basically bullying the father, totally disrespecting his rights and duties of parenting; if that’s how they play the game then the mother should be charged with aiding and abetting her daughter in this planned crime; isn’t making plans to cause bodily harm to another person/minor in this case also a crime, let me answer, YES IT IS!, they have all the text to prove this was going to be a premeditated act of violence, charge the daughter also, evidently she needs a wake up call to reality! I am usually sympathetic to children and the fact that they don’t necessarily think about their actions, or the reprocutions of their acts, but in this case I’m sure the mother as given her daughter an entitled attitude, making her believe that she doe not have to be responsible or accountable for her actions! This is so sad that this became such a big deal, when the father was trying to actually be a parent!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to get the latest updates in your inbox.
Which categories are you interested in?
You’re now subscribed!