The Sad Case of Tanya McDowell


I hope Tanya McDowell will forgive us, someday, for our hypocrisy and cruelty. I hope her son will as well. But first she will have to serve her prison term. Her son will have to learn to get along without her.

Ms. McDowell was sentenced to a five-year term behind bars. Her crimes: Larceny and drug possession. Experienced criminal defense lawyers know these charges often go hand-in-hand: An addict has to steal, often, to support their habit.

But Ms. McDowell is no ordinary drug user. She did not steal to support her habit. She stole an education from the City of Norwalk. Yeah, that’s right. We now send people to prison for theft of an education.

Ms. McDowell was living by her wits with her kindergarten-age son, spending time where she could, most often in Bridgeport at homeless shelters. She wanted a better life for her son. So she enrolled him in the Norwalk public schools. She had no real ties to the city, however. When the city found out that it was spending its money educating her boy, it demanded that Ms. McDowell be charged with a crime.

Norwalk prosecutors, known statewide for an unreasoning mean-streak, obliged. She was charged with first-degree larceny.

At this point, Ms. McDowell was something of a folk heroine. Public support rallied behind her. Then the undercover cops moved in. Just who sent them and why they targeted her is as yet unclear. She bought some narcotics, and was then charged as a drug user. Public support for her vanished.

Why, the woman self-medicates? A homeless shelter isn’t good enough for her? She struggles being a single mom? Maybe she’s got mental health issues? And what’s this about wanting a better life for her son? Let's warehouse her!

This woman needed help, not a prison bed. But Norwalk prosecutors piled on. They would not negotiate a resolution of her separate and distinct cases. No, not these ministers of justice. She faced a lengthy prison term on the drug cases. If she did not enter a plea resolving both the larceny case and the drug cases, then she’d face a far longer term in prison than the one to which she pled. 

No judge was able to step in assure that justice was done.

Norwalk Superior Court has for years been a mean and surly place. This case illustrates that. 

A woman is sent to prison for wanting a better life for her children. She is doing time for using an illegal drug. Had she drank herself to death it would be no crime. Or had she smoked four packs of cigarette a day to sooth her jangled nerves, no one would care. But the wrong people are profiting from the drugs Ms. McDowell used. 

We imprison the sick and call it justice. Now we imprison the homeless looking for something better for their kids. 

Class war? You bet. Ms. McDowell just go sacrificed on the front lines.

 

Comments: (15)

  • False News!
    If this was the whole truth it would be despicable but the situations are very different. Tanya was a convicted bank robber. She had a weapon, sold drugs, fronted prostitution and these charges, along with the school offense, were all part of a plea deal. If you want more of a real comparison, this women who did the same thing got 10 days in jail:https://people.com/crime/ohio-mom-imprisoned-for-falsifying-kids-school-district-speaks-out-on-felicity-huffmans-sentence/
    Posted on October 19, 2019 at 1:37 pm by CO
  • McDowell, Tonya
    Ms McDowell was sentenced in 2012 to 5 years for all offenses ( and 5 probation). This old news begs to ask "it's been 7 years has Ms McDowell been released from prision??"
    Posted on September 16, 2019 at 11:32 pm by Bernadette ONeill
  • Tanya McDowell
    I am a retired college professor and a rabbi who used a friend's address so that my daughter could go to a better school than was possible in our district. How about sending me to jail too? This is an outrageous disgrace. What can we do to help?
    Posted on September 16, 2019 at 2:31 am by Miriyam Glazer
  • McDowell vs Felicity Huffman
    What is the difference? They both were guilty of "stealing" an education for their child. White power and priviledge is the difference.
    Posted on April 23, 2019 at 10:14 pm by Bridget
  • Hey barry you suck
    @Heather Smith Maybe she wouldn't need to sell drugs if our society wasn't broken.
    Posted on April 22, 2019 at 10:43 pm by bingo bango
  • Got what's deserved
    She broke the law and has to pay the price. Why aren't people responsible for their actions any more? It's always someone else's fault.
    Posted on April 22, 2019 at 8:25 pm by Barry Hymens
  • Entire History
    I recommend you include the entire list of charges against Ms. McDowell. Her plea agreement covered multiple drug charges, including possession and sale of drugs within 1,500 feet of a school. When she was arrested for the drug charges in front of Brookside Elementary, the school she was charged with sending her son to, she marijuana and crack on her. I guess other parents wanting a safe drug free environment for their children do not matter.
    Posted on March 19, 2019 at 7:03 am by Heather Smith
  • Prison address?
    This is just awful. All she wanted was to give her sona better life. Does anyone know how I might go about sending Ms. McDowell a letter and possibly a few dollars for her commisary? Any help with this would be appreciated.
    Posted on July 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm by kb
  • What about RACE WAR
    Class war, what happened to race war?
    Posted on April 30, 2012 at 2:11 am by EyesWideShut
  • Justice?
    Where is the social justice in this decision? How can we trust the 'justice' system if it is only serving the needs of one group?
    Posted on April 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm by Juliet Macdowell
  • Prison address?
    This is just awful. All she wanted was to give her sona better life. Does anyone know how I might go about sending Ms. McDowell a letter and possibly a few dollars for her commisary? Any help with this would be appreciated.
    Posted on March 10, 2012 at 3:53 pm by kb
  • Is there justice anymore?
    The famous American lawyer Clarence Darrow once said: ""There is not justice in or out of court." He is right. Me and Miss McDowell have both found this out. I hope these people can sleep at night.
    Posted on March 3, 2012 at 8:48 am by JUST ME!
  • Collateral Damage
    No one is able to cause more collateral damage in CT than state's attorneys. They routinely destroy lives and families. Three types of prosecutors: (i) Poorly trained, (ii) mentally ill, and (iii) evil. These traits may be overlapping. In the worst case, you confront all three. These people are an impediment to a healthy, free-flowing economy. Former A.G. John Ashcroft said, "Just because you can prosecute, does not mean you should prosecute..." That was brilliant.
    Posted on March 2, 2012 at 9:07 pm by william doriss
  • Arresting Parents Won't Solve Education Crisis
    No parent or guardian should be arrested and convicted for putting their child in a good school, in district or out of district.
    If Parents don't put the educational and life needs of children FIRST who will?
    Please sign petition to ask State of Connecticut to Pardon Tonya for stealing a free kindergarten education for her son.
    http://www.change.org/petitions/ct-governor-dannel-p-malloy-pardon-tonya-mcdowell-for-kindergarten-educational-theft-2
    Posted on March 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm by Gwen S
  • Arresting Parents Won't Solve Education Crisis
    No parent or guardian should be arrested and convicted for putting their child in a good school, in district or out of district.
    If Parents don't put the educational and life needs of children FIRST who will?
    Please sign petition to ask State of Connecticut to Pardon Tonya for stealing a free kindergarten education for her son.
    http://www.change.org/petitions/ct-governor-dannel-p-malloy-pardon-tonya-mcdowell-for-kindergarten-educational-theft-2
    Posted on March 2, 2012 at 5:10 am by Gwen S

Add a Comment

Display with comment:
Won't show with comment:
Captcha:
What is 3 X 3?
*Comment must be approved and then will show on page.
© Norm Pattis is represented by Elite Lawyer Management, managing agents for Exceptional American Lawyers
Media & Speaker booking [hidden email]