When sexual abuse takes place within a home or family in New York, there may be questions of whether bystanders have a duty to report the illegal activity and whether they can be arrested for a criminal offense for failing to do so. Where a man may be abusing a child, and his wife may be aware of it to some degree or another, can the authorities arrest the mother for a criminal violation in her own right? New York State Police would generally answer yes to that question as they did just recently in arresting a 51-year-old woman for allegedly knowing of her husband’s sex offenses against a minor over a 10-year period.
The NYSP charged the 50-year-old man with Course of Sexual Conduct Against a Child in the 2nd Degree. The crime carries a maximum of seven years in prison. They charged the wife with endangering the welfare of a child. According to the authorities, the woman knew what was going on, but wasn’t “trying to reach out to any local or state law enforcement to try and seek help” and to turn her husband in to the authorities.
That may be an aggressive application of the criminal law, and the woman’s counsel will want to pursue a vigorous defense on her behalf, at least based on the limited facts now known. The woman’s defense will rise and fall on the severity or non-severity of the facts against her. If her level of knowledge was deep and encompassing, then the presence of criminal intent may be inferred.
However, if she subconsciously “looked the other way” without knowing concretely that something illegal was occurring, she may be found not guilty due to a lack of criminal intent. The question would be for a jury to evaluate and decide under New York criminal law. The reporting of the details of the charges against the husband are sketchy. It is unknown where the alleged sex offenses took place and, if they did occur, whether the wife knew of them or not.
Source: wgrz.com, “Couple, son arrested in sex crimes investigation”, May 20, 2016