More good news to report! Is it my birthday or something?! (TBH, that’s not till tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait that long to post this update!)
I was sitting in an oral surgeon’s office yesterday with my older son (the joys of orthodontics) when I got a message that made me gasp out loud with joy, which is not something I can say often on this blog.
The precious little love pictured here is Dante Mullinix, who was a week shy of his third birthday when he died on September 15, 2018. I recently covered Dante’s story in two parts on Suffer the Little Children Podcast (episode 76 and episode 77).
Dante was rushed to the hospital, unresponsive, on September 6, 2018 after his mother’s boyfriend, Tyree Bowie, claimed Dante choked on animal crackers while in Tyree’s care. After several days on life support, Dante was declared dead. His organs could not be donated because, in addition to the traumatic brain injury with strangulation and chest compression that caused Dante’s death, he suffered from an active case of HSV-2, better known as herpes, which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Despite the fact that Tyree Bowie does not have herpes and therefore could not have caused this infection, he was accused of Dante’s murder, charged, and booked into the York County Jail just days after Dante’s death. Many, including Dante’s aunt, Sarah Mullinix, believe Tyree is innocent. Sarah created a Facebook page called Justice for Dante, where she openly criticizes the investigation into her nephew’s death.
Last year, during the discovery process in his case, Tyree received copies of Child & Youth Services documents and medical records relating to Dante’s case and mailed Sarah copies of the documents. Several times, Sarah shared photos of this information on the Justice for Dante page, which has over 5,000 followers. Some of the documents indicate that Dante was abused well before Tyree entered his life in August of 2018.
York County authorities evidently took exception to Sarah’s criticism and, earlier this year, charged her with an obscure crime — unauthorized release of information — under a Pennsylvania law designed to prevent the disclosure of information by state officials with access to confidential databases.
Free speech experts around the country had a field day with that news, especially when it was revealed that Sarah was one of only two people charged under that law in the last decade, and the first was a CYS caseworker who inadvertently disclosed confidential information during a phone call. Many experts were shocked at Sarah’s prosecution, opining that the use of this law to charge her likely violated her First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.
Sarah told the York Daily Record after being charged, “I’m exposing the truth. The way I look at it, they’re trying to cover stuff up.”
Last week, Sarah’s mother, Victoria Schrader, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg against York County District Attorney Dave Sunday and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, seeking an injunction to prevent the district attorney and the attorney general from “criminally prosecuting or taking other adverse action against her” for sharing the same information Sarah has made public.
Victoria’s attorney, Aaron Martin, said, “The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that citizens have the right to discuss the actions of government officials and to criticize them without fear. The documents here were obtained through a lawful process. They were not stolen. They have been put into the public domain, and Ms. Schrader is concerned that she could be prosecuted if she would speak about them — even casually — with friends and acquaintances.”
Victoria’s complaint said that she believes District Attorney Sunday was using the charge against her daughter in a “discriminatory manner” because of Sarah’s “outspoken advocacy” about the negligence and failure of CYS in Dante’s case. CYS caseworkers were in contact with Dante and his mother, Leah Mullinix, just four days before Dante was taken to the hospital, unresponsive. Their documentation, along with the medical records, makes it clear that Dante was already in danger when CYS marked him in their documentation as “safe.”
No court date has thus far been set in regard to Victoria’s legal action.
The message I received yesterday was from Sarah, who I was fortunate to speak with in episode 77, informing me that the charge against her was dismissed, and I am absolutely ecstatic for her! If convicted, Sarah could have faced one to two years in prison — all for advocating for true justice for her murdered two-year-old nephew.
On Wednesday, September 15, York County Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock issued a one-sentence order dismissing the charge of unauthorized release of information against Sarah. The judge’s order was issued after the York County District Attorney’s Office submitted court documents earlier in the week under seal. It is not clear what the documents contained. Just one week earlier, the District Attorney’s Office made an offer to drop Sarah’s charge if she agreed never to post CYS documents again. Sarah refused the offer and was prepared to continue fighting the charge against her.
This woman is a force to be reckoned with!
Sarah’s attorney, Brandy Hoke, said in a statement, “Sarah and I are both very deeply moved by the amount of support we have received in this matter over the past few months. I pray that Dante can be at peace and justice will be done for him.”
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Dante’s story.
Sources: York Daily Record, Justice for Dante Facebook page, Sarah Mullinix, the Penn-Live Patriot News