Failure to report abuse didn't make mom accessory.


Byline: Bill Cresenzo

A woman who didn't report the fact that she had discovered her husband molesting their daughter can't be found guilty of being an accessory after the fact to the crime, but did obstruct justice when she tried to block law enforcement and social workers access to her daughter, the North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-2 decision.

The court remanded the case to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to enhance the obstruction of justice charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Mardi Jean Ditenhafer of Wake County lived with her husband, who had adopted her daughter, Jane. William began molesting Jane when she was 15. Jane told her aunt, who reported the crime to investigators. Jane's mother initially told Jane that she did not believe the allegations. She later discovered her daughter and her husband having sex, but didn't report it.

In 2014, Ditenhafter was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to sexual activity by a substitute parent, and of two counts of obstruction of justice, according to the Nov. 1 decision authored by Justice Robin Hudson.

The state's Court of Appeals reversed the accessory charge because the indictment merely alleged that Ditenhafter didn't report the abuse of her daughter, and that isn't enough to warrant such a charge. The Court of Appeals also reversed one count of obstruction of justice conviction in which Ditenhafter was accused of denying access investigators access to her daughter.

The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's accessory ruling but disagreed with the reversal of the obstruction charged.

Ditenhafer told investigating officers and social workers that Jane had made false accusations against her husband. She interrupted one interview by constantly sending Jane text messages and by abruptly removing...

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