A federal judge on Monday allowed a Little Rock charter school teacher to be released from jail pending her Oct. 1 trial on drug and gun charges, but called her a "bad mother" for raising her children in "appalling" conditions while living with her boyfriends among drugs, guns and violence.
"This is shocking behavior for a woman who loves her children," U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom Ray said during a detention hearing for Shernetta Bogard, 39, who was arrested Feb. 22 when federal agents executed a search warrant on the house at 4 Silver Fir Court in the Pleasant Forest neighborhood of west Little Rock.
Agents were there to arrest Bogard's boyfriend, 38-year-old Sabin McCuien, and search the house, where they reported finding 5.3 pounds of cocaine, the type of drug paraphernalia used by large-scale drug dealers and six guns -- at least two fully loaded with bullets chambered -- alongside children's toys.
McCuien faces five federal cocaine trafficking charges and one charge of possessing a gun in furtherance of drug trafficking. He was released April 3 pending trial.
Testimony at Monday's hearing revealed that Bogard, previously known as Shernetta Robinson, had been pregnant with one of her three children six years earlier while she was living with David Tidwell, 37, who was shot to death outside a house on Slinker Road south of Sweet Home on April 11, 2011, while she and her two daughters were inside.
She was later convicted of a federal charge of misprision of a felony for helping conceal from authorities the fact that she helped another man remove 3 kilograms -- more than 6 pounds -- of cocaine from the house before calling police to report that Tidwell, a drug dealer, was "missing," even though she knew he was lying dead in the flower bed just outside the house.
Bogard, who faces federal charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, and also faces state charges, was a third-grade instructor at Little Rock Preparatory Academy at 1616 S. Spring St. at the time of her arrest. The superintendent for the Exalt Education Network of central Arkansas, which includes the academy, said in late February that Bogard had been placed on administrative leave.
Bogard has been in custody since her arrest, but asked Monday through defense attorney Theodis Thompson to be released into the custody of her mother, Shirley Green of Little Rock. Since Bogard's arrest, her mother has been keeping her three children -- the 6-year-old boy, David Tidwell Jr., and two daughters, ages 17 and 20.
Green acknowledged that it has been a "strain" on her, particularly because the oldest and youngest children are epileptic. She said the oldest child was so worried Sunday night about her mother's hearing Monday that she had three seizures, for which she was treated at a hospital.
Green testified that she knew Tidwell and knows McCuien, and believed both to be "good people." She said she trusts her daughter to have "good judgment" with her children, noting that since being with McCuien, a truck driver, Bogard has told her "she was making better choices" than in the past.
"It ought to be uppermost in your mind to want to protect your grandchildren," Ray told her, explaining that if allowed to be her daughter's third-party custodian, there would be tight restrictions attached, including that no men would be allowed in the house. Green promised to enforce the rules.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Givens opposed Bogard's release until trial and took testimony from Steven Briggs, a Drug Enforcement Administration task-force officer. Briggs testified that despite Bogard's assertion Feb. 22 that McCuien hadn't lived at the Silver Fir Court house for three or four months, officers had seen him there Feb. 7, just before they watched him sell cocaine to an informant.
Briggs described agents finding most of McCuien's belongings in a downstairs room adjacent to the garage -- where he said a bag full of cocaine sat on the tire of McCuien's vehicle in the garage, "inches from" a child's scooter. The officer said agents found money-counting machines, heat sealers for bags of drugs and digital scales -- all of the type used by large-scale drug dealers -- throughout the home.
He identified photographs agents took of the downstairs room, where he noted the door was "wide open" to the rest of the house. The photographs showed cocaine residue and a razor blade near a television and six guns lying around in plain view beside high-capacity magazines. Briggs said one of the loaded guns found on a couch had a round in the chamber and was set so that a mere squeeze of the trigger, even by a 6-year-old's tiny hand, could fire it.
While Thompson tried to show that Bogard and the children used a different path than McCuien took to enter and exit the house, thereby avoiding the downstairs "man cave," the agent testified that officers also found holsters and ammunition in Bogard's upstairs bedroom.
Under questioning by Givens, Briggs said Bogard's children would have to pass by the "man cave" room to get to the garage. He also said that from the scooter, the 6-year-old could have reached out and touched the bag of cocaine on the tire, visible just under the truck's wheel well.
"Ms. Bogard has shown an incredible lack of judgment and has put her children at risk on numerous occasions," Givens argued. "To suggest she isn't aware of these items being here lacks credulity."
Ray told Bogard, "I am concerned at the horrible decisions you've made as a mother." He said the part of her mother's testimony that most troubled him was that she "doesn't have grave concerns about her daughter's judgment."
Still, he said, he believed that Green's supervision, coupled with electronic monitoring, "can reasonably control the risk Ms. Bogard poses to her own children, as sad as that is to say."
He told Bogard, "I'm going to give you one chance." He warned her that if he learns of one violation of her electronic monitoring, "I'm going to lock you up."
Metro on 04/17/2018
Print Headline: U.S. judge frees 'bad mother' till trial