On radio this morning, Glenn shared the story of John Janczewski, a resident of Rose City, Michigan whose son was molested by a teacher, Neal Erickson, at Rose City Middle School. The sexual abuse happened on several occasions when Janczewski’s son was in 8th grade. The boy is now a sophomore in college.
Erickson was convicted of statutory rape after a picture surfaced of the boy in a compromising position with the teacher. On July 10, 2013, the judge sentenced Erickson to 15-30 years in prison, but six educators and one school board member came out in support of the teacher and asked for leniency. According to The Detriot News:
Before the sentencing, six teachers and two retired ones wrote letters to the judge asking for leniency.
None of the teachers condoned what Erickson did. Instead, their letters focused on his 17 years of teaching, describing his popularity with students and teachers, how hard he worked and how often he volunteered for school functions.
Parents in the town have since called for the firing of the teachers and board member who have defended. The town has balked at the requests claiming the firings would result in expensive litigation that would drive the city into bankruptcy. Tonight at the Ogemaw Heights High School auditorium at 7pm, there will be a meeting to decide the fate of the administrators.
Glenn spoke with Janczewski this morning about the impact this ordeal has had on his family, who have endured a string of vandalism and threats since the verdict was handed down.
Below is a transcript of the interview:
GLENN: John, how are you, sir?
JOHN: I'm doing great. Thank you, Mr. Beck.
GLENN: I'm sorry that we have to meet under these conditions. I would imagine the conversation we had for the last couple of days had to be -- your son has -- did you guys know at all? Did you have any idea at all that this was going on?
JOHN: No. We had no idea at all. I basically, when it first started happening at about 13, 13 and a half years old, I chalked it up to puberty, but as it got worse, I said to myself, going through puberty myself, I was never that bad.
GLENN: What was happening?
JOHN: What was happening is he began to hate me. He began to lash out at me. We had physical battles. I was worthless to him as time went on. And we are a close family, we tell each other we love each other. That all diminished. And it never came back. And it just got worse.
GLENN: Is it back now?
JOHN: It is back now. Now we text and talk at least two to three times a week, maybe sometimes four; where over eight years, he wouldn't even talk to me. He didn't bother to take the time. We were -- we appeared to be a happy family on the outside, but on the inside, we were torn apart and tearing apart. It was horrible. For eight years, I lost my son that I'll never get back for over eight years, some of the best years of his life, growing up I lost, that are gone forever.
GLENN: So I don't want to be the guy that asks you the questions, so feel free -- nobody's going to say a word about you not answering a question and I do not mean to be rude or pry. It is none of our business.
JOHN: Please go ahead.
GLENN: The picture, how did the picture come out?
JOHN: What had happened is somebody sent the picture to the board of education the superintendent, the principal. And they sent it in an e-mail, and then they sent another e-mail, more pictures will follow. And four days before it came out, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
GLENN: Oh, dear God.
JOHN: She was diagnosed and told about it on a Wednesday. On that Sunday back in October, four days after that, the state police were in my driveway and they showed up and they -- when they showed up, they had a picture of our son and asked if that was our son and they stated right there, he was molested by a Rose City Middle School teacher called Neal Erickson.
GLENN: So you had to -- first of all, how is your wife?
JOHN: My wife isn't doing very well. She's been through two breast surgeries. When she did radiation, on her last couple of visits of radiation, they do x-rays each week, and they told her it's in her lungs now.
GLENN: How is her relationship with your son?
JOHN: It's always been okay, but he has lashed out with her, but now her relationship is really well with him. My son and I are trying to open a new chapter and a new book, and try to start all over again.
GLENN: Was your son relieve that had this came out?
JOHN: He was relieved, yes. He's held this inside for eight to nine years. Psychologically, imagine that on a young boy, having to hold that in and be threatened all the time and hold that inside him? What a way to grow up and enjoy the best years of your life.
GLENN: So now there's two parts of the story we have to get to. One is the teachers that came in support, how many people with living in your town?
JOHN: Approximately, I would say 6,000 to 8,000.
GLENN: So it's a small town. And it is a small town school. I would imagine that your values are not New York City values.
GLENN: And these teachers -- it had to be shocking for the teachers to come out and say, well, we don't know. The totality of this teacher's life and career is not so bad.
GLENN: What exactly is the case they're making here?
JOHN: The case they were making is it was a one-time incident, you know, that the child could have stopped it. He was groomed and he was a predator.
GLENN: So the community, they want these teachers fired.
JOHN: Right. Right.
GLENN: They do?
JOHN: Yes, they do. They want the teachers fired, they want Mike Eagan recalled and taken off the board.
GLENN: Who's Mikey?
JOHN: Mike Eagan is a member of the school board. He sat on the molester's side. His wife, Amy Eagan wrote a letter.
GLENN: So tonight at 7:00 at the auditorium -- how do you say the name of your --
JOHN: Ogemaw Heights High School at 7:00 in the auditorium.
GLENN: And there you have to decide the fate. They are saying if you fire these teachers because they will sue, it will bankrupt the town.
JOHN: That's what they are saying, but as a molester, that does not matter. He molested a child.
GLENN: But they will say that it is just their right to free speech, so why should they be punished for free speech? Have we lost him?
Below is a transcript of the interview:
GLENN: We are talking to John Janczewski, he lives in Rose City, Michigan, where tonight they are having a meeting at the auditorium at 7:00 p.m. to decide the fate of teachers who openly supported a pedophile, saying that's an awful long risen sentence for a teacher we all know and love. No, no. We didn't know the whole raping of a child part. Now, they will say they have freedom of speech, it will bankrupt the city because they will all sue, but do you want somebody who says hey, lock, 15 to 30 years for raping of a child, an 8th grader is a little harsh. Do you want them teaching your child? I don't think they have the common sense to do it.
And bankruptcy's all the rage nowadays. So anyway, John is put in this horrible position and it's his son that was raped and there's something else that we have to talk about. You have now been the victim of violence, your family has, John. Can you tell me what happened to your garage?
JOHN: We had some threats on us, and they wrote letters on our house. The letters were YWPITY. You will pay. I told you.
My wife had threats on her right after July 10th sentencing. Then what happened, I called the state police, they said if we have any issues, call us back. Lo and behold, two and a half days later, 1:30 in the morning on a Saturday, I was awaken to a bomb sound going off, and then I went to the window to find my garage was on fire and engulfed in flames. My camper on the side of my house. If I wouldn't have woke up, we could have all died. We could have all not been here doing anything right now. That's what happened?
GLENN: Why would they do that to you? What is your motivation?
JOHN: Because we are speaking out against these teachers, because they're wrong. They took an oath when they did their license to be a teacher and that is to protect the child, and getting back to the money issue, it would bankrupt the county. Since when do we put a price on a child? Since when? It is wrong. How many teachers are going to turn a blind eye? These teachers cannot be trusted, they cannot be trusted.
GLENN: John, I wish I could stand there with you tonight. Mercury 1 is a -- has a charity that I started and we talked to them and normally don't get involved in things like this, but I think one of their founding principles is to bring people hope, and so we are going to take care of your garage and rebuild your garage.
JOHN: That is so awesome. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You know, I've got to tell you something else. Could you believe a church posted bail for him? A church just down from my house, that back in April, he came into where I work and I asked him, I said I'm losing my faith in God. My wife has cancer, I have MS, my son was molested. Can I talk to you. He said I'm going on a cruise for two weeks. I will call you then. It's been an awful long two weeks, hasn't it. And he was in court, sitting on Neal's side, and that church posted bail for a child molester.
GLENN: What church is that?
JOHN: Prince of Peace Church, Father Stonebeck. It's just unbelievable.
GLENN: John, move to Texas. I don't think -- I just don't think I have seen a family kicked in the teeth as much as your family has been kicked in the teeth, but I will tell you this. I'm sure in a town your size, there are -- out of 6,000 people I bet there's 4,000 that stand with you and know what you are going through I don't know John.
JOHN: This community has been so supportive for tonight, they made T-shirts, my son's favorite color, blue, and we are all going to be wearing them and they all say support the Janczewski family. We want all these teachers fired, we want the board member to step down, which he will not. He'd rather cost the school district $30,000 than have him recalled. That's how sick he is. It's just unbelievable. We would like to get out of this as Eagan to step down, fire the teachers, have background checks on teachers and every six months have them go through a training, how to spot signs of a child molestation?
GLENN: You're not asking for lawsuits, money, you're not asking for anything. You just want to make sure -- I mean, they didn't catch it the first time. They didn't catch it with your son. And how they can say it only happen this had one time. How do you know? Did they know this was happening?
JOHN: Yeah. They turned a blind eye. The community asked a question at the last board meeting and they said through the board members, there's six of them, would you want these teachers to teach your grandchildren or your children. All five of them said absolutely not. Mike Eagan grabbed the microphone and said I would have no problem with none of this. I would let them teach my children or grandchildren.
GLENN: I don't know, we will continue to follow the story. And our heart and our prayers go out to you. Just know there are millions of Americans who have heard this story now and will keep you and your family in their prayers. God bless, my friend. We will talk again.