1-Hour Arrest

When does a snapshot of a mother breast-feeding her child become kiddie porn? Ask the Richardson police.

Says Stovall: "The very accusation in this case carries such a bad taste that they automatically assume the worst. I tell you they are charged with possession of child pornography, and you automatically envision the worst possible scenario."

Lafuente says he has been willing to concede that the photos show behavior that some people of a conservative nature might consider inappropriate, such as a mother bathing with her 4-year-old, or being topless around the kids. Yet those hardly rise to the level of sexual abuse. The family lives together in one room, making privacy difficult, but that does not mean Mercado and Fernandez are not loving parents, he says.

At a December 5 hearing on CPS's removal of the children, Lafuente reached a compromise with the state to put them in the temporary custody of Mercado's former husband, who also lives in the Dallas area. Mercado says that in the five months since, he has given her liberal visitation rights, but she and Fernandez cannot be left alone with the children, nor can the children sleep at the couple's house.

Jacqueline Mercado, a 33-year-old Peruvian immigrant, took a few photos of her young children at bath time. A week later, Richardson police were rummaging through her house for kiddie porn, and a state child welfare worker came to take her kids away.
Mark Graham
Jacqueline Mercado, a 33-year-old Peruvian immigrant, took a few photos of her young children at bath time. A week later, Richardson police were rummaging through her house for kiddie porn, and a state child welfare worker came to take her kids away.
The photo in question: Jacqueline Mercado and Johnny Fernandez say they took this image last October to memorialize the breast-feeding stage of their son's life. Below: The Lucca Madonna, painted in the 15th century by the Dutch master Jan van Eyck. Defense lawyers argued that while breast-feeding images are a second-degree felony in Richardson, they are also on public display in the finest art museums in the world.
The photo in question: Jacqueline Mercado and Johnny Fernandez say they took this image last October to memorialize the breast-feeding stage of their son's life. Below: The Lucca Madonna, painted in the 15th century by the Dutch master Jan van Eyck. Defense lawyers argued that while breast-feeding images are a second-degree felony in Richardson, they are also on public display in the finest art museums in the world.

They also agreed to attend "group treatment for sexual issues" and submitted to extensive psychological exams.

At the group counseling, Mercado says, she has learned that kids in the United States are subject to the most horrendous abuse. "Their parents are on drugs...They're left with relatives who molest them. It's horrible." None of it seems to apply to her and her boyfriend, she says, although they say they attend the sessions regularly and try to partake.

"It's about as useful as tits on a bull," sniffs Chatham.

In their psychological exams, which they made available for this report, the only problems the experts could discern in interviews with the parents were those heaped on them by CPS and the police. And those, too, seemed to be held against them in the less-than-empirical world of psychoanalysis.

"When asked about problems occurring in his life currently, Mr. Fernandez states that the children have been removed, there is little money for lawyers, and it's all a big injustice," wrote Robert Antonetti, a Dallas psychologist who interviewed the couple earlier this year. "He reported currently feeling anxious, angry at the injustice he is enduring and fearful of what may happen. When asked about coping with stress he said he's been praying a lot."

In his summary and recommendations, Antonetti mentions no evidence of sexual deviancy in either parent. Instead, he concludes that Fernandez "feels very vulnerable to criticism and judgment."

The accusation that you're a sexual deviant who victimizes his own children might tend to do that.

The psychologist divines from his own psychological tests--and no material evidence whatsoever--that Fernandez appeared to be so "anxious to please" that he might be hiding something. "The profile suggests the probability that he attempted to present himself in an improbably favorable light," Antonetti concludes. Hence, the state-hired Antonetti recommended Fernandez be made to take a polygraph test before getting his son back. He recommended Mercado should be hooked up to one, too. He further recommended both should undergo parenting classes, individual counseling and couples counseling.

Two weeks ago, with a deadline looming for the state either to return the children or go back to court and ask to remove them permanently, Dallas Assistant District Attorney April Carter asked the judge in the case to require the parents to take the tests and attend the counseling before anyone goes home. "There are concerns we need to address," says Carter, who is representing CPS in family court. She says the store clerk, the Richardson police, the grand jury and others took issue with the photos and without further proof, "it's not clear whether this was sexual or cultural." She says she believes lie-detector tests would put that question to rest.

At press time, a hearing on that matter was pending. "We're going to fight it," says Lafuente, saying the state has dragged out the matter long enough and has had five months to ask courts to order tests or counseling. He says there might be a disagreement over appropriate parental behavior, but it isn't something that will be settled by psychologists or lie detectors.

Robert Herrera, who was appointed by the family court to represent the interests of the children alone, agrees. "My feeling is at this point the children should be returned to their parents," he says. "I don't know how strongly CPS disagrees with that, but I think this should be resolved without any more trips to court."

If what she and her boyfriend did was wrong, Mercado says, "I'm sorry. I didn't know these pictures were wrong...I just want my children back. They belong with us."

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10 comments
yumicpcake
yumicpcake

It's another example of people coming to this country and expecting us to conform to their standards and laws instead of obeying our laws.....I guess all of you commentators calling me an asshole are so ignorant to the point that they don't understand the human trafficking among children running rampant in this country. I guess you are all for molesting children!! Well suck a fat cock because I am all for our government trying to protect the children of this country.....you are all wrong, I am right....get a brain!!

yumicpcake
yumicpcake

Why? Because Lady, people molest and sell their own flesh and blood kids all of the time. They are just trying to be sure that you are not one of those kinds of couples. It's rough but fair, I think. Because of the fact that it's not a normal, one breast out, breast feeding. You are completely topless, which to Americans is suspicious, because most of us do not get completely topless to feed our children and we hold them in our arms instead of having them stand in front of us like a man sucking a breast in pornography. You're in America now, you have to conform to our laws. I am well aware that I sound very unkind but that photo is pretty bad!! Call me an asshole, I don't care one bit!!  

dwindykema
dwindykema

These people should sue Texas for this!  Unbelievable and disgusting that strangers could interpret breast feeding as  'sexual' in nature!  Even worse that law enforcement took ANY action on this.  

srbflowers
srbflowers

@yumicpcake you are no doubt the biggest asshole I have ever read anything from.  The world would be a better place if you just shut your mouth and never open them again.  The Americans in America would appreciate it very much.  Please conform.

katieroberts2150
katieroberts2150

@yumicpcake  your an asshole. I highly doubt you would think it was very fair if that was happening to you.  I have pictures of my children naked playing in the pool in the back yard and also pictures of me nursing my daughter. if you think there is something wrong with that then perhaps youre the perv here. It is my right as a mother to take pictures of my kids at different stages. 

a.t.shinn
a.t.shinn

@yumicpcake you are an asshole. this is the stupidest thing i have ever heard, and a completely legit example of the government and police department over stepping its boundaries. fuck you, fuck texas, fuck the people who think that this family deserves to be torn apart because their cultural values do not match with the fucked up ones we have in the US. the argument, you're in american now, is weak, at best, and culturally insensitive, and bigoted. seriously, get your fucking head checked. i hope you never have children.

 
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