When a press release detailing the sentencing of Sheetal Ranot came over The Forum’s fax machine this week, it was an instant reminder of the sickened stomach caused by the first press release bearing her name back in July, when news of her arrest came across the very same fax machine.
Sheetal Ranot is a 35-year-old woman of Indian descent, who with her husband Rajesh– the child’s biological father– tortured, beat, and starved her step-daughter, Maya Ranot, now 12, in the family’s Ozone Park home.
For two years, beginning in 2012, Maya was starved, beaten with a rolling pin, locked in her room, kicked in the face by her shoed step-mother and ultimately beaten with a broken metal broom handle. The last injury was discovered by paramedics called to the scene who found Maya on the floor, in a pool of blood, the bones and tendons of her wrist exposed.
Reading through the first release by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office, it was established that Sheetal Ranot faced a maximum sentence of 25 years. But when the actual sentence was passed this week, she got 15 years behind bars– a little more than half of the time she could have gotten. The reason, rationale—or lack thereof—as to how this monster could have gotten a second less than the maximum evades any measure of our understanding. Even more audacious, however, is the fact that the Administration for Children’s Services has escaped completely. In fact, the agency’s commissioner, Gladys Carrión, lauded ACS staff in the July DA press release for saving Maya’s life.
“I am deeply grateful to the Child Protective Specialists and Investigative Consultants, whose diligence and professionalism saved the life of this young girl and ensured that she and her siblings were removed from this home and are now safe from further abuse,” she said.
But thanks to a probe of the case by our esteemed colleagues at The New York Times, a trail of disastrous mistakes are attributed to ACS. When Maya was questioned by case workers, and denied that anything was wrong, they took her word for it without further investigation. Apparently a 12-year-old child that weighs only 58 pounds, wearing filthy clothes that barely conceal bruises and scars all over her body doesn’t merit action. In fact, the Times reported that a “city social worker had actually been watching her for more than a year, but did not act.”
Clearly what needs to be addressed is how this could possibly happen, as we have seen, over and over again. The City’s policy of keeping families together is in dire need of mediation and overhaul. There is a dangerous lack of information sharing among agencies, as was also evidenced in Maya’s case through a string of missteps and miscommunications between agency workers, police, and hospital personnel.
While we are nearly 100 percent convinced that this will fall on deaf ears, it bears stating (and repeating and repeating and repeating until we no longer have to):
Something needs to be done.
IMMEDIATELY. Not now. RIGHT NOW.
We look forward to the day when we can say we are proud of how our leaders protect our most precious resource at all costs.
We look forward to the day that our hearts remain calm and our skin doesn’t crawl at the slightest sound from our fax machine.