How many of us have made flippant remarks to our friends or on social media when the kids have us at our wits’ end about rehoming them? “If anyone wants a kid, I have some here free to a good home!” Or we might joke about selling them to a circus or some such. You may not have, but I know I have. I actually may or may not have done just that thing earlier today. I think I’ve probably offered to sell Spawn at least once a month ever since he turned 3. Most people know we’re speaking in jest. But what happens when someone takes it too far?
A 24-year-old woman in Noxubee County, Mississippi, found out the hard way Friday when she was arrested and charged with trying to sell her kid on multiple websites. Jamonica Cotton allegedly posted to several different buy-sell-trade pages statewide on Facebook, and soon after, people started reporting the posts to law enforcement.
A picture of her daughter, who appears to be around 2 years old, was posted online on several pages with the caption, “For Sale Do Anybody Wants To Buy Her Best Offer I Would Take” for an amount of $123,456,789. This is a standard listing price when accepting offers and not to be taken seriously as a selling price (it is simply the numbers 1 to 9), but what drove investigators to consider this to be a serious listing were the multiple postings on different sites. Defenders of Ms. Cotton’s honor are quick to point out that she posted only on pages where she knew her family would see it, but I’m not sure if that’s a point in her favor or against.
In a statement about this incident, Noxubee County Sheriff Terry Grassaree said, “It’s not a joke. It’s a travesty to do that. So, there’s no way you’re going to do that and not catch everybody’s eye. Just about every sheriff’s department around here called me. I even talked to the highway patrol, talked to the D.A.’s office, because when it got up, everybody started calling…once the post got up. It was like, to my knowledge, on four different websites.”
WCBI’s newsfeed was flooded with locals commenting in this mother’s defense, saying that surely she was just joking and that the world has gone bonkers looking for anything to demonize someone over, but others weren’t having that and say it’s no joking matter with all the sick people in the world. At one point, the arguments even turned from the child trafficking concern to the use of a booster seat in the photo instead of a 5-point harness, because of course it did. (Do you see this photo? Come on, now.)
Regardless of Ms. Cotton’s intentions, she has been arrested and charged with sale of a minor child, and her daughter is now in the custody of the Department of Human Services. That’s a pretty harsh end to any joke. I guess the Sheriff’s Department missed the intended punchline, if there actually was one. You can hardly blame law enforcement, though, for acting in the child’s welfare with so many human-trafficking cases popping up around the country. You just never know.
In any event, consider this a heads-up and a warning PSA to all you parents out there joking about your kids on social media, especially as summer looms and the kids reach those “OMG take them now!” levels of fuckery. Know your audience, use your head, and keep your message clear if you’re joking, or you might just find yourself on the wrong end of the law.