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“Special Place In Hell.”


video source: State Representative Randy Fine Facebook page.

The story of 7 year old Sophia Steel made national headlines.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The father of a special needs child with Down syndrome is speaking out, still fuming that his 7-year-old daughter came home from Ocean Breeze Elementary School with a mask tied around her head.

“I was so angry so I waited four days from Thursday 7th to Tuesday after Columbus Day because I really need to calm down,” said Jeff Steel. “When this child got off the bus and had the mask it was tied around the back of her head underneath her ponytail and it was quite tight around her face.”

He said it was so tight, his daughter Sophia struggled to communicate and breathe.

“Medically, she could aspirate. She could asphyxiate all sorts of medical things that could happen and because of her breathing because of her enlarged tongue could cause seizures,” Steele said.

The thought of a child being treated the way Steele and his wife alleged outraged the nation. And rightfully so. No one wants to see the abuse that was alleged against any child much less against a child with Down Syndrome.

The father of the girl, Jeffrey Steel made appearances on television and gave interviews. He declared that he would sue the Brevard School Board over his daughter’s treatment. He even set up a “GiveSendGo” page to receive donations.

As we write this post on Friday, November 26, 2021, the crowd sourcing page shows that people had donated $104,484 in support of legal fees.

(click for larger image in new tab)

As people like Representative Randy Fine lined up to make statements, even Governor DeSantis was drawn into the battle.

Fine took the opportunity to parade the parents and to make inflammatory statements such as “there is a special place in hell for people who would do this to a little girl.”

State Representative Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, weighed in on this mask situation earlier this week at a news conference with Governor Ron DeSantis.

“There’s a special place in hell for people who did this to that man’s daughter,” Rep. Fine said.

Fine blamed school board members who voted for mandatory masks, namely Jennifer Jenkins.

Jenkins spoke to FOX 35 News this week about all the harassment she has been receiving since voting for the mandatory mask mandate. She is angry Rep. Fine took at her in such a public manner.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday denied claims that the Justice Department would label parents as domestic terrorists when intervening in incidents of violence or intimidation targeting state and local school board officials. A Brevard County School Board member says she has been threatened.

“To watch a state rep say there’s a special place in hell for me on television is disturbing,” Jenkins said.

Based on this incident, Fine accused Jenkins of being a “child abuser,” an accusation that is not only horrible, but without any proof whatsoever.

However, there is a problem – a huge problem.

The Indian Harbor Police investigated Sophia’s parents’ claim and found them to be lies.

The trouble is, according to an investigation by Indian Harbour Beach police, that doesn’t seem to be what happened. A 35-page case report and four-page supplement released this week by Indian Harbour Beach police — detailing an investigation initially begun to determine whether school staff had committed child abuse — contradicts many of the details of Steel’s story. The report, made available to FLORIDA TODAY, shows that the police actually closed the investigation because many of the allegations, including that school staff had abused Sofia when they tied a shoestring-type cord behind her head to prevent her mask from slipping off her ears during class, were without merit.

“Based on the facts and logical persuasiveness of the evidence presented in this case, there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal violation against” Sofia’s teacher and instructional assistant, said the report signed by Indian Harbour Beach Detective Jim Adams. “There was no evidence presented which supports that (Sofia) received a physical or emotional injury. This case is closed as Unfounded.” Among the other findings: the report showed no evidence that Sofia was ever in danger or distress, including the afternoon of Oct.7 when she arrived home with the mask tied to her face.

[….]

The report also showed that the photos that Steel used to broadcast the episode were staged by him and his wife days later based on her recollection of the event, according to metadata embedded in the pictures, contradicting initial statements to police under sworn testimony that the pictures were taken the day Sofia arrived home from school. Steel later “clarified” when the photos were actually taken, telling detectives that his wife had lost her phone along with whatever photos she’d taken the day of the incident, the report said.
Police: Accusations of child abuse ‘unfounded’

Neither Steel nor his attorney would comment for this story. (emphasis ours)

Of course the person who appeared on every media outlet that would have him is suddenly silent on the issue. Steel is willing to play the fiddle but not face the music.

After a thorough investigation, however, including interviews with multiple witnesses and a review of video evidence from Sofia’s school and school bus, police said it was nothing of the sort. In particular, investigators found no evidence to support Steel’s assertion that either the mask or string used to secure it had at any point caused Sofia distress or difficulty breathing — including the afternoon of Oct. 7, when Steel said Sofia arrived home in a “panic,” according to his GiveSendGo page. “As witnessed by multiple teachers, school aides, bus drivers, and school administration staff, at no time, while having the mask tied on, did (Sofia) ever exhibit any signs of distress, discomfort, difficulty breathing, or any other health concerns,” investigators wrote.

Neither did the use of the string to secure the mask rise to the level of abuse, police concluded. Sofia’s teachers settled on the nylon cord after other methods of securing the mask failed due to the shape of her ears, which was affected by her condition and made wearing masks difficult, police wrote. The idea of using the string — threaded through the ear loops of the mask and tied in a loose bow behind Sofia’s head — came from a pamphlet distributed by the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation, describing acceptable ways of securing face masks for those with the condition, the report said.

Her teacher selected the string over other methods because it allowed Sofia to untie and remove the mask if she chose, which video and witness testimony proved she was able to do “and had done, by herself, on many occasions,” police wrote. Other aspects of the case, some detailed in the report, have failed to support that Steel’s allegation of abuse was genuine. In a previous interview, Steel told FLORIDA TODAY that Sofia would often remove the mask because she “doesn’t want it on.” Multiple witnesses instead told police that Sofia would initiate her teachers and other school staff for help re-securing the mask when the string would come undone, the report said.

On at least one occasion, Sofia was observed on video placing the mask on herself; on another, her teacher told police, she “threw a temper tantrum” when she was not allowed to wear her mask after the school granted her parents’ request for an exemption. Despite multiple assertions that the school was endangering Sofia’s health, Steel also told FLORIDA TODAY that neither he nor his wife had sought the advice of Sofia’s doctor on whether the mask was harming her. (“We know Sofia’s condition. We don’t have to go to the doctor every time something happens with Sofia,” Steel said at the time.) While he often goes by “Dr.

Steel,” he holds a PhD and is not a medical doctor. Sofia’s mother confirmed to police that they never had to seek any kind of medical attention for Sofia as a result of the incident, and while Steel told police his attorney had suggested a psychological evaluation for his stepdaughter, it wasn’t clear he had sought one out, according to the report. Detectives noted that Sofia continued to attend the school and remained with her same teacher throughout the investigation.

Apparently the Steele didn’t think that the police would investigate to the depth they did.

The case report also detailed false statements Steel initially made to police about the photos that circulated online and accompanied most media accounts of the incident, casting further doubt on the veracity of his claims. (Steel has withheld permission from FLORIDA TODAY to reprint the photos following a prior interview with a reporter.) The pictures show multiple angles of Sofia with a common disposable facemask tied in place by a piece of thin, blue nylon cord, strung through the ear loops and tied in a bow just above her hair ponytail at the back of her head. In media interviews, notably on his Oct.25 appearance with Tucker Carlson, Steel said the photos were taken by his wife at his request and sent to him Oct.7, the same afternoon Sofia arrived home with the mask. He repeated that claim to investigators in a sworn interview on Oct. 22.

“Dr.Steel stated he then told his wife to put the mask back onto Sofia exactly as she found it, and take pictures so they have it documented. When I asked Dr. Steel to clarify when the four (4) pictures he just showed me were taken, Dr.

Steel stated the pictures were taken after his wife removed the mask then put the mask back on to take pictures, on 10/07/21,” investigators wrote in the report. However, a later review of the metadata on the pictures Steel sent to police showed the photos were actually taken on Oct. 10, three days after the incident, the report said. A separate set of pictures taken by an instructional aide and timestamped Oct 7, the day of the incident, showed Sofia was wearing different clothes than in those which Steel originally claimed were taken that same afternoon, according to the report. Steel offered a “clarification” in a follow-up interview Oct.29 between a detective, himself, his wife and their attorney, the report said, telling investigators his wife had “lost her phone and lost any pictures that were taken” on Oct.7. “Dr.Steel further stated he was unsure if his wife had actually taken any pictures of (Sofia) on 10/07/21. This contradicted an earlier statement made by him during his sworn interview,” the detective wrote. The report went on: “Dr.Steel now states his wife never took pictures on Thursday, 10/07/21 when (Sofia) got off the bus, the pictures he sent to me were taken on the morning of Saturday, 10/09/21, 2 full days later, when Ms. Steel put the mask back onto (Sofia) and tied it to (her) head, in an attempt to re-create how she remembers seeing the masked affixed to (Sofia) 2 days prior. “Additionally, Dr.Steel stated he couldn’t remember who was holding the phone taking the pictures, but he and his wife were both present on Saturday 10/09/21. This contradicts an earlier statement made by Dr. Steel when, during his sworn interview, he stated on 10/07/21, he was at work and not present when he received the pictures from his wife showing (Sofia) wearing the mask.”

Police did not explain in the report the apparent discrepancy between Steel’s later testimony that the pictures were taken Oct.9 and the metadata showing the date of origin as Oct.10. What’s not at issue is whether the pictures were more-or-less accurate to how Sofia arrived home Oct.7. School officials and staff admitted to police they had used the blue nylon cord shown in the photos to secure Sofia’s mask in a largely similar manner, with the string tied in a bow behind her head, although Sofia’s teacher told police the string was “not tied the same” in the pictures.

Supporters of Fine are now claiming that the FloridaToday’s reporting on the Indian Harbor Police Department report is somehow “biased.”

We agree that the FloridaToday has a bias, but we are hard pressed to find a bias in the IHBPD who did the investigation.

Even given the report and its contents, Fine is standing by his accusations:

In a statement to FLORIDA TODAY, Fine initially rejected the findings, again insisting the treatment of Sofia by the school constituted “child abuse.” “Anyone who doesn’t think tying a mask around a non-verbal Down Syndrome child for weeks — and intentionally concealing it from parents — isn’t child abuse has no grip on reality. I am confident that the courts shall hold Jennifer Jenkins and her underlings accountable for abusing Sofia,” Fine said, referencing statements by Steel that he intended to bring suit against the school district.

In her sworn testimony with police, Sofia’s teacher said she was never concerned about whether Sofia’s parents saw the shoelace string used to tie the mask, and denied ever trying to hide it.

The parents got caught. Fine and others so wanted to believe them that they shouted the lies from the rooftops and in any media they could.

It is okay to get duped, but once lies have been exposed, the right, moral and mature thing to do is to say one was duped and admit the error.

That’s not going to happen in this case for a variety of reasons, mostly because people are so entrenched in their beliefs that nothing will ever sway them.

Even the truth won’t matter to them.

It should, but it won’t.

We agree with Representative Fine that there are “special places in hell.”

Those places include those who lie and are willing to thrust a 7 year old child into the national spotlight based on those lies.



7 Responses to ““Special Place In Hell.””

  1. Thomas Gaume says:

    I’d rather pray for God to forgive them, than condemn them to hell, but D52.5 doesn’t operate in that manner.

  2. Big momma bubba love says:

    Hah! You’re gonna give Fine and that guy a pass for literal fraud. Probably conspiracy to commit fraud.

    I’d call this paper a mullet wrapper, but there’s no print edition! Lmao.

    The federal complaint has already been filed by people familiar with the case. You can’t crowdfund 100k dollars from people all over the country based on a flagrant and disgusting lie. Good to know this supposedly reputable publication is willing to engage in such cowardice.

    Delete the comment if you don’t like it. I already screen shot it.

    • Anne Nonneemouse says:

      I can’t tell if you have difficulty with reading comprehension? Or did you read a different article than I did? Or maybe you just need to be baker-acted. AA didn’t give Steel or Fine “a pass”. He pretty much said they need to own up to their lies. Maybe you should lay off the sauce.

      • AAfterwit says:

        Anne Nonneemouse,

        Thanks for the comment.

        We know the commenter and this is not the first time he has stopped by to make comments that are not based on reality.

        It is a shame, in a way, that the amount of hatred the commenter has, combined with his delusions leads to him making statements that only serve to prove himself the fool.

        Thanks again for the comment.

        A. Afterwit.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Big momma bubba love,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Where in our post do you see any hint that Steel and or Fine should get “a pass” for anything?

      Please cut and paste where we did.

      C’mon. You can do it. You can post what we said that would back your accusations.

      Fact is, you can’t and you won’t because there is nothing there to support you.

      This is not the first time you have visited our little part of the blog-o-sphere and left a comment that is based on fiction.

      You may remember when you posted a comment about the actions of the School Board on our post dealing with the Board illegally shutting down citizen comments based on content.

      In those comments you claimed that no one was shut down and you had spoken at the meeting. Unfortunately for you, the time stamp of the video which you claimed to have spoken was when Kayte Campbell was speaking and well after the public comments had been closed. Then, as now, in your zeal to try and attack us, you only show yourself to be someone who cannot comprehend the written word and has to lie to people in a vain attempt to get your fantasies published.

      You should be ashamed of yourself, but we all know that you won’t be.

      Delete the comment if you don’t like it. I already screen shot it.

      Of course we aren’t going to delete the comment. Why would we? Why would we delete a comment that is so bereft of facts, logic, and comprehension where the writer, in trying to attack us, beclowns himself?

      Why would we do that?

      We’ll let our readers see what type of person you are for themselves.

      Come on back any time you’d like. We enjoy the laugh.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      A. Afterwit.

      • Big momma bubba love says:

        If you had any journalistic integrity you’d at least cite the federal fraud statute and point out that because the donations were fraudulently collected across state lines, it’s likely a federal crime.

        But you’re too chickensh* to do that, just like you’ve censored other comments that debunked your bs, and have made outrageously stupid and false claims in the past on numerous occasions. Not only that, how lazy is it that you just copy and paste someone else’s reporting without doing any research of your own, while calling that publication you copy and pasted “biased”.

        It’s pretty fn lazy.

        [edited to remove obscene ASCII image from post. Please follow the commenting rules of the blog. Thank you.]

        Have a nice week, poser.

        • AAfterwit says:

          Big momma bubba love,

          Thank you for your comment.

          If you had any journalistic integrity you’d at least cite the federal fraud statute and point out that because the donations were fraudulently collected across state lines, it’s likely a federal crime.

          We didn’t address any crimes that are involved in this case – including the crimes from Steel or Jenkins as a member of the School Board.

          If you want to host a blog, put the effort in, pay the fees and everything, then you can write what you want. As it is, you have no say in what we choose to write.

          But you’re too chickensh* to do that, just like you’ve censored other comments that debunked your bs, and have made outrageously stupid and false claims in the past on numerous occasions.

          We have never censored any one or any comment based upon the content of their post except in cases which involved violation of our no foul language rule and posts that do not stay on topic.

          We always warn and inform people when their comment is deleted or edited.

          (Just like we are doing now for your obscene ASCII drawing in your comment. We edited that because we don’t allow that kind of language or imagery here. We are always saddened by adults who cannot make cognizant comments without being obscene and or cursing.)

          Once again, you are making a false claim without one scintilla of proof.

          That appears to be your style.

          You throw stuff at people to try to see what sticks. Most does not because your understanding of science, law and other subjects is at a very low level. Certainly your reading comprehension is at a low level.

          Not only that, how lazy is it that you just copy and paste someone else’s reporting without doing any research of your own, while calling that publication you copy and pasted “biased”.

          We often comment on reports from other sources. You do the same thing in your “writings.” The difference is that we understand what other people write.

          We have commented on writings from the LA Times, the Washington Post, the NY Times, etc.

          For the life of us we can’t figure out why that would bother you.

          Oh wait, we do know why…….we fisked a meandering writing that was full of factual errors that you had written. Instead of addressing those errors, you attacked us because unlike a mature adult, you cannot admit your errors.

          Yes, the Florida Today is biased. However, in this case we noted that their bias had nothing to do with their reporting on what the Police Report said. We were honest about the bias and addressed how people might perceive that bias in this case.

          Because you still demonstrate an inability to read and understand the English language and are so intent on hating people that you can’t see that.

          We get it. We really do. You hate that we commented on one of your writing that was so full of facts and lies that you think that coming after us will make you look better. Of course, what you aren’t doing is showing us where we erred. All you have done is say “you should have written this….” and then hurl insults.

          We hope you have a nice week as well.

          A. Afterwit.

  3. […] report from the Indian Harbor Police Department concerning their investigation into the incident where parents accused the Brevard School District of “abusing” their 7 year old child who has Down […]

  4. […] part of the continuing saga of the 7 year old child with Down Syndrome whose parents are suing the Brevard School Board, the attorney for the couple, Nicholas P. Whitney […]

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