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Midlothian family weighs in on controversial case: "I feel like this was a systemwide failure"

Midlothian family weighs in on controversial case: "I feel like this was a systemwide failure"
Midlothian family weighs in on controversial case: "I feel like this was a systemwide failure" 04:51

MIDLOTHIAN — It's the case that revealed problems within the Midlothian Police Department: A complaint of a middle school student masturbating during class. The families of two students reported it to police and say they are not happy with the way the case was handled. One family's complaints led the city council to pay for an assessment of MPD's criminal investigation division.

Now the other family is coming forward with their story, but they asked us not to identify them because they say, they are worried about retaliation. "We're just regular people whose child went through something and were basically told to sit down and shut up," said the student's mother.

According to the parents, while the other student was labeled a potential victim in the case, their daughter was labeled a witness. After a forensic interview, during which their daughter was asked to describe in detail what she saw, the family says six to seven months passed with no word from police. 

Then, the call came: the parents say they were told the case would not be prosecuted.

"I feel like grown men decided that it wasn't that serious and that's how it was handled," said the girl's mother.

She says their case ended without justice for any of the students involved. 

"Not only did the girls get victimized," the girl's mother said. "There's no help - or there was nothing to say that the boy received any assistance or help."

According to the internal report, Investigator Jason O'Briant told his supervisors that he was in contact with the family that reported the incident, even though he was not. In September, he received a one-day unpaid suspension, and he retired the next day.

That's when, the report says, the department looked into O'Briant's open cases and found somewhere "he just stopped working." In others, suspects were identified but warrants were not written, and in eight cases there was no evidence O'Briant had done any work at all.

The consultants say they found issues beyond O'Briant, including "significant deficiencies around case management." According to the report, "there is no review as to how long cases have been open or assigned to an investigator or what actions have been taken on those cases."

"I feel like this was a systemwide failure," said the girl's mother. "I'm not saying there was a bad cop. I'm saying there was a bad system."

Midlothian's city leaders and police chief have declined to be interviewed, but Mayor Justin Coffman sent CBS News Texas this statement:

"At the direction of the Midlothian City Council, the City of Midlothian engaged an outside firm to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the City's Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division. The assessment was conducted with the full cooperation of the police department.

The consultants emphasized that the assessment was not from the perspective of determining whether the case in question should have been prosecuted or not, but from the perspective of departmental timelines, procedures, processes, and tools engaged to ensure the appropriate investigation and management of cases. Specific investigative practices were not addressed in the assessment.

The assessment resulted in an action plan that the City Manager Chris Dick is in the process of implementing along with Police Chief Carl Smith. This includes developing operating policies and procedures and ensuring they are being followed.

The assessment provides an opportunity for us to improve operations while at the same time improve the service we provide to the community."

Jason O'Briant is now an investigator for the Ellis County District Attorney's Office. He declined to be interviewed but provided this statement:

"The majority of my caseload was involving juveniles so I could not comment regarding those cases. I have nothing negative to say about my time as an employee for the City of Midlothian. When I left I was given an Honorable Discharge which was reported to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement."

Midlothian ISD provided this statement:

"A positive and safe learning environment is always a priority in Midlothian ISD. While the District is not able to share any specific information about a student matter, in May of 2023, campus administration received a report and processed it in accordance with District policy and practice. Campus and district administrators take any report of inappropriate behavior seriously and cooperate with the Midlothian Police Department or other law enforcement agency as needed. In investigating any reported incident, administrators will not dictate or attempt to influence the statement of any student or witness. As is standard practice, campus administrators will notify involved parties of the availability of school counselors in addition to any support offered by the Midlothian Police Department and the Ellis County Child Advocacy Center.
MISD administrators receive training on incident response and investigation techniques on a continuing basis, including a review of procedures for working with law enforcement or other agencies as appropriate. During the summer of 2023, district and campus administrators met with representatives from the Midlothian Police Department and the Ellis County Child Advocacy Center to ensure clear understanding regarding practices for the involvement of law enforcement in incidents reported to the school. The district considers each incident on a case by case basis and will continue to put the safety and security of our students as the top priority in all that we do."

You can see our first report and read the full assessment by clicking here.

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