Schoolyard bullying is nothing new, but it’s a bit more unusual—and more inexcusable—to see a grown man teasing a disabled 10-year-old child. The municipal judge in Canton, Ohio, evidently agrees: Judge John A. Poulos sentenced William Bailey, 43, to a month in jail after he was charged with two misdemeanors, including one stemming from his open mockery of a young girl with cerebral palsy, ABC News reports.
Bailey’s sentencing comes after a cellphone video capturing his merciless taunts was widely shared online and broadcasted by a local news channel, the Associated Press notes. The taped incident occurred on Sept. 26, when Tricia Knight and her mother-in-law were waiting at a bus stop to meet Knight’s children after school. Bailey was there to collect his son, who attends elementary school with the Knight kids, including 10-year-old Hope, who has cerebral palsy and walks with crutches, according to the Canton Repository.
When the children arrived, the situation allegedly took a cruel turn—and Knight’s mother-in-law kept the camera rolling. As Knight told ABC News, Bailey “was dragging his leg and patting his arm across his chest to pick his son Joseph up.”
“I asked him to please stop doing this. ‘My daughter can see you,’” Knight said. “He then told his son to walk like the R-word.”
Knight was involved in a head-on car accident while pregnant with Hope, and the baby was born 29 weeks premature and weighed two pounds and 12 ounces, according to ABC. Hope has since grappled with numerous health issues and has undergone two brain surgeries.
Knight posted the video of Bailey’s behavior on her Facebook page, and the clip—called “Bus Stop Ignorance”—quickly went viral, ABC reports. Knight then filed a complaint with Canton City prosecutors. According to the Repository, this was only one episode in an ongoing feud between the Knights and the Baileys, who have lived next door to each other for two years. Knight told Fox 8 that Bailey’s son had been teasing Hope since last year.
Jennifer Fitzsimmons, the chief assistant city prosecutor who handled the case, told ABC that the ruling against Bailey was difficult because there is little precedent for handling cases regarding offensive “gesturing and commenting” about people with disabilities — although she ultimately decided to bring charges. Thankfully she said, the case was settled without a trial, which would have forced Hope “to relive what she saw and how it impacted her.”
According to ABC, Bailey faced two charges: one for misdemeanor disorderly conduct for his bus stop bullying, and one for misdemeanor aggravated menacing in a separate incident that Knight alleges occurred the same day and involved Bailey “swinging a tow chain on his porch” and threatening to choke her.
His 29-day jail sentence, which begins Jan. 2, reflects the aggravated menacing charge, but Fitzsimmons told ABC that the incidents are “all interrelated” and “the judge took into account all the actions of Mr. Bailey.” Bailey must also pay court fees topping $400.
Bailey has said he was not making fun of Hope. The Repository noted that Bailey claimed he was reacting to insults that had been directed at his own son, while he reportedly told the New York Daily News that he had been injured at work and had a genuine limp. Regardless, Bailey pled no contest to both charges against him.
Knight has discussed the incident with the bus driver and the school’s principal, and she now drives Hope to school, ABC noted.
Fitzsimmons told the Repository that she hopes the case with call attention to bullying problems.
“It’s unfortunate it had to be at the expense of a family and a little girl who has it rough as it is,” she added.