Father says abuse claims are false: ‘ I would never hurt my kids.’
Last week WDEF first reported on Johnny Fields, 51, of Chattanooga after he was booked into the Hamilton County jail on a charge of child abuse and neglect.
After posting bail, Fields contacted WDEF and requested that his side of the story be told.
"It’s been a struggle to me. I’ve been standing like a man and doing the best I can do for my kids and they just wipe this in my face," Fields said while tears rolled down his eyes.
According to the arrest affidavit, Fields repeatedly punched his 12-year old daughters face. He is also accused of pulling her hair and beating her ribs.
Police found a small red scratch under the the girls eye and took Fields into custody.
Another child who said he witnessed the attack told officers he had to pull Fields off of the girl.
Both kids told police, "This happens a lot at home."
Child protective services was called to further investigate.
But Fields; a physically handicapped father with only one hand told WDEF a different version of what happened.
He said he came and found his children fighting over a lap top computer. He said his 12 year old was combative and even took swings at him. Fields told WDEF that he was trying to protect himself from being hit so he held her head down to keep her from using both hands to swing at him.
WDEF asked Fields about the scratch police found under her eye.
"If she had a red spot under her eye, I didn’t do it. I’m her daddy and I would never hurt my kids or do anything to harm them," Fields said.
WDEF then asked Fields about a quote in the arrest report where the children say the abuse happens all the time.
"That’s a darn lie. My kids know that’s a lie. I’ve done everything I could do; selling scraps and fixing law mowers; trying to provide food for them and to take care of them like a father should. And this is the only thank I get; a slap in the face," Fields said.
Fields told WDEF he believes his ex-wife has been instructing the children to tell police they were abused so he could loose custody of his children. WDEF was never able to get in contact with his ex-wife to get her reaction to that allegation.
But according to legal experts who have defended clients with similar claims, there are cases where one parent has coerced children into making false accusation against another parent. WDEF spoke to defense attorney Jerry Summers who has experience defending clients who are believed to be falsely accused of child abuse. Summers said he always look for red flags that may determine motive for making a false claim of abuse.
"Is there a pending child custody battle? Is there a divorce pending. Are government benefits involved? Is one party trying to get child support by getting a custody change from one parent to another? Those are things you look for," Summers said.
Unfortunately, while there are many legitimate cases of child abuse by a parent, there is also illegitimate claims that end up in the court system.
"It’s more prevalent than you realize. Usually the ones that the prosecution and the DA’s have the ultimate decision where they think it’s a valid case or not. Sometimes they objectively look at it and realize there’s not a case, those cases go away," summer said.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2010, 40-percent of child abuse cases in this country were proven false.
"40-percent of false charges; that still leaves an awful lot of scars on a lot of people. You can get rid of the charge but you may not get rid of the stigma," Summers said.
Fields is trying to avoid the stigma of being labeled an abusive parent. During an interview with Fields, he tried hard not to cry but emotions eventually took over.
"I getting out of jail with tears coming out of my eyes because I know I did the best I could do," Fields said.
WDEF contacted Child Advocacy Center of Chattanooga but officials declined to comment about how they weed out false claims from legitimate ones.
In full disclosure, Fields admitted to WDEF that he has a criminal past which includes battery on a police officer. But he maintains that was a long time ago and that he has turned his life around.
Fields is currently out of jail on a $3,000 bond awaiting a May 8th court date.