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Homeless Mom Faces Norwalk Judge; Case Continued

Tanya McDowell stood by her attorney, Darnell Crosland, in Norwalk Superior Court on Tuesday morning as he attempted to get her case dismissed. "You do know that standard procedure (for such a motion) is at the time of trial," Judge Bruce Hudock said to Crosland.

McDowell, 33, who sometimes lists her address as Bridgeport and sometimes as Norwalk's Open Door Shelter, is under criminal prosecution for using a friend's address to enroll her son at Brookside Elementary School in Norwalk. Her case was continued to July 12.

Despite Hudock's rebuff, Crosland said he remained optimistic at McDowell's chances for a dismissal or a nolle , in which the state would not pursue charges but reserve the right to reopen the case.

"The prosecution has made it quite clear in this particular case that she's aware that the other 26 families that were reported on, there was no criminal prosecution, no restitution, that those dispositions sort of set the tone for what could possibly be a disposition in this case," Crosland said.

In addition, the Board of Education, which is the victim in the case, does not want McDowell incarcerated and does not want restitution, according to Crosland.

"Rep. Bruce Morris has presented a letter to the prosecution's office on behalf of the Board of Education, claiming that they're not looking for restitution and they're not seeking incarceration," Crosland said. "Typically in criminal cases, the victim's opinion sort of factors in to how the disposition goes. There's no difference here. ... At this point, my conversation with the prosecution is leaning toward a positive resolution. We're going to pull together some more documentation. We're going to present it at the next court date, July 12."

Crosland said his motion to dismiss was based on two factors: the federa l McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which says that homeless children are entitled to an education, and Connecticut education statute 10-186, which he said indicates that a civil procedure should be used in a case such as McDowell's, not a criminal one.

"My position in this case was that since this motion was based solely on legal grounds, that the judge should give it a chance to be heard prior to a trial," Crosland said.

The attorney also presented paperwork in court, showing that McDowell has successfully completed the Alternative in the Community program, an alternative to incarceration. Hudock said her test results were "excellent."

In contrast to McDowell's past court appearances, this one was tame as far as the media circus goes. No news conferences were held before, although Jack Bryant, president of the NAACP's Stamford chapter, and Shirley Mosby, first vice president of the Norwalk branch of the NAACP, were there to support McDowell. There was also a trio of out-of-towners who had hoped to hold a rally before McDowell went in. Andrea Reinhardt of Newtown said she worked with the homeless and had sympathy.

The NAACP is holding a rally at 6 p.m. in front of Brookside Elementary School.

Do you think the case against Tanya McDowell should be dismissed? Leave a comment below.

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