An online petition with 15,700 signatures from around the country and state was delivered Wednesday morning to Norwalk's state prosecutor demanding that charges against Tanya McDowell for stealing education be dropped.
“I’m writing to ask that you immediately drop criminal charges against Tanya McDowell for trying to give her son a decent education,” Norwalk resident Anthony Crisci wrote on a petition on change.org, an online petition platform. Crisci also called for the resignation of Norwalk Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Suzanne Vieux for “wasting taxpayer money and causing great embarrassment to the City of Norwalk.”
On April 14, the Bridgeport mother was arrested for sending her 5 year old son to a Norwalk school and was charged with first degree larceny for the theft of $15,000 in educational services.
Gwen Samuel of the Connecticut Parents Union who gave the petition to Vieux said that residents from 78 towns in Connecticut signed the online petition. The petition is addressed to Gov. Dannel Malloy, Norwalk Superintendent Susan Marks, Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiaramonte, Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane and State's Attorney David Cohen.
McDowell appeared in Norwalk State Superior Court on Wednesday morning but did not go before the judge. After a pre-trial conference, McDowell's attorney Darnell Crosland said that McDowell was spared a courtroom appearance.
“My client is being unfairly singled out,” McDowell's attorney Darnell Crosland said at a press conference outside the courthouse. “I’d like to the see the larceny charges dropped entirely,” he said.
Crosland said that McDowell should be treated “on par” with the other families who have illegally enrolled their children in the Norwalk schools this year. “We want the retroactive application of the same policy. There should be no prosecution, no restitution."
A review conducted by Norwalk school human relations officer Bruce Morris found that 26 students have been removed from the district over the past year because they didn’t live in the city.
The NAACP has written to State’s Attorney David Cohen asking that the case be moved to Stamford. Scot Esdaile, President of the state NAACP said Mayor Richard Moccia’s public comments about the case have been “divisive and out of line." The Mayor has disputed McDowell's homelessness and focused on her other criminal arrests. Esdaile also said the fact that Vieux is the mayor's stepdaughter could pose a conflict.
McDowell's attorney, however, said he withdrew a change of venue motion. McDowell's larceny case has been combined with two pending cases for drug possession and breach of peace. Her next court date is June 7.