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Chicago mom who lied about baby being in stolen SUV doesn’t deserve harsh justice

Sade Owens made a bad decision when she told police her 7-month-old was in the vehicle, hoping to get them to quickly find it. But that shouldn’t ruin her life.

Sade Owens.
Sade Owens.
Chicago police

If there’s anyone who ought to benefit from criminal justice reform, it’s Sade Owens.

Owens is the 30-year-old mother of three who the police say told officer her 7-month-old son was in the back seat of her SUV when the car was stolen in front of a convenience store in Marquette Park.

She said a “lady” had told her that, if she said her child was inside the car when it was stolen, the police would find her car sooner.

It was very bad advice.

Still, it is one of those things some Black people say because they believe police officers aren’t trying to go out of their way to look for a stolen car in the ‘hood.

Unfortunately, it was a believable lie.

How often have we heard someone’s car has been ‘jacked with a baby inside, and the missing baby was found still strapped in a car seat?

Owens’ lie sent police off on a wild goose chase that included deploying canine units and a helicopter, and it tied up police resources for a couple of hours in an area that has had more than its share of criminal activity.

When the SUV was located within two hours with no child inside, Owen’s story fell apart.

Jaylen Mojica.
Seven-month-old Jaylen Mojica turned out to be safe, with a babysitter, all along and not in a carjacked vehicle.
Chicago police

Well, you know what they say about how one lie leads to another? Before this mother of three and home care worker knew it, she was tied up in a string of lies that led her straight to jail.

Her 7-month old baby was safe all along, in the care of a babysitter who was watching Owens’ two other children.

But imagine being in her shoes. To someone who is working a low-wage job and homeless, sheer panic must have set in when she came out of the store and her car was gone.

I don’t know whether Owens even thought about what would happen when the truth was uncovered, but I doubt she thought she would be charged with a felony for filing a false police report.

Owens could be heard “sobbing” during a “court appearance broadcast on You-Tube” when Cook County Judge Mary C. Marubio ordered her held on $5,000 bail, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Owens was released the same day after posting the required 10 percent of that — $500.

That’s punishment enough when you are paying a babysitter to take care of three children while you go to a low-paying job.

Owens should get a strong warning about filing false claims and be required to perform community service. The realization that she could go to jail for lying to the police should be enough to teach her a lesson.

This is one of those rare moments when the Chicago Police Department can counter the perception that police officers patrolling Black and Brown neighborhoods are standing down and letting mayhem take its course.

The feel-good scenes of uniformed officers kneeling with community activists are great photo ops. But the live action of police trying to help people in crisis tells the real story of what happens every day in most neighborhoods.

No matter how flaky Owens’ story must have sounded — she reportedly gave a wrong address for the babysitter and claimed not to remember the babysitter’s name — apparently the Chicago Police Department did everything it was supposed to do under these circumstances.

Though no one was harmed by Owens’ ruse, the judge took a hard stance.

“This is an incredibly extensive search for this baby,” Marubio said at her bail hearing. “While we can say no one was harmed, there is a harm to our community when police resources are misdirected and misdirected on such a grand scale.”

Under criminal justice reform, there should be a way for Owens to apologize for her bad decision-making without destroying her life.

This is an instance where something good can come from something bad.