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student sparks national attention, personal anguish
Two nights ago, Daily StaffReporterMichelle Lee Thompson interviewed
Steven Smith, the 20-year-old ex-boyfriend ofJennifer Ireland, at the Michi-
gan Union. Smith, also from Mt. Clemens, has been fighting with Jennifer
Ireland, an LSA sophomore,forcustody oftheir3-year-olddaughterMaranda.
The case attracted nationwide attention when a Macomb County Circuit
Court judge granted custody of the baby to Smith.
Why did you decide to
file for custody of your
'daughter after Jennifer
Ireland filed for an in-
crease in child support payments?
AThat's a big question in
the media. Everyone's
saying that I counterfiled
because she wanted more
money, but the reason for
me is that it all takes time. She beat me
to the courthouse steps. I didn't just
file for custody --I filed for visitation
and a reduction in child support. The
claim that I made $300 take-home,
that motion wasn't signed by Jenny. It
was signed by her mother Julie (Ire-
land). It shows her unwillingness to be
a mother. If her daughter's so impor-
tant to her, then why can't she show up
to sign any of the motions or papers.
It's always been her mother who has
Q: Would you have filed for cus-
tody if Ireland hadn't filed her suit?
A: Oh, sure. I mean, she filed in
mid-February after I told her Jan. 1
that I was planning to file for custody.
But it all takes time.
Q: So many issues have come into
thepicture in this case: day care, parent
advocacy, domestic violence. How
have you dealt with all the media atten-
*ion, and how important do you think
these issues are?
A: First, I guess I would say that
I didn't want to retry this case in the
media. Really, I didn't need to talk to
the media. For me, I just went to court
because Ijust wanted to get my daugh-
ter out of this situation. I just wanted
to get custody. I didn't want the me-
dia. The only reason why is because
*enny's attorney sent out letters to the
media saying, "Isn't this a farce?" It's
unfortunate that people jump on the
bandwagon and just grasp onto the
story. People don't know anything
about this case.
Q: Do you think Maranda is being
properly sheltered from the cameras
and the attention?
A: No, not at all. First, obviously
"the Irelands') objective is to get
eople to jump on the public band-
wagon. But to subject Maranda to the
cameras and say, 'Oh look, she's
happy, I play with her' - I don't
think (Maranda) needs that. It could
come back and haunt her. Second,
what about all those sickos who could
think, 'Both sides really care about
this kid,' it's a scary thought. There's
no need to show her to the media.
Once, when she was over at my house
in the pool, I said, 'So, do you play in
the pool at Mommy's too?' and she
said they didn't have a pool. So I said,
'Yes you do, I saw you on TV,' and
she said, 'Yeah, but we only had a
pool for two days.' They just bor-
rowed one from the neighbors to put
on a show. It's propaganda. And the
reason why they're doing it is they
appeal to the public.
Q: How do you answer to the
charges filed by Ireland back in Janu-
ary, when she accused you ofpushing
her down a flight of stairs, and the fact
that they only came up after Jennifer
A: There were two charges -the
Dec. 24 (1992) charge I still haven't
gone to court for, and the Jan. 1(1993)
charge was expunged. I would just
say that it's nonsense and garbage.
Jenny's got a story for each different
person. I was the one who was as-
saulted and not her. It's funny that all
of a sudden after she lost custody that
she reactivated this charge. It's filled
Q: Who, in your eyes, has the
primary caretaker been for Maranda?
A: Jenny's more like a sister to
Maranda than a mother. I think the
primary (caretaker) was Jenny's mom,
Julie, butI mean, the fact is that you'll
see in testimony in the transcripts that
it was Jenny some of the time, Jenny's
sister. Jenny's sister (Emily Ireland)
and mom, who did the bulk of the
raising when Maranda was brought
home at first, and Jenny's sister was
13 years old. I mean, Jenny's friends,
cousins, relatives, her mom's boy-
friends, her boyfriends. There were
extensive amounts of people that have
cared for this child, so where's the
stability there at all?
Q: You originally filed for cus-
tody about 18 months ago. How has
this whole battle changed you, and
how do you feel about the length of
the whole legal process that has been
involved in this case?
A: I think that the length is just
utter nonsense that it took so long.
Unfortunately, criminal cases take
precedence over domestic things, I
don't know if they were backlogged
or what, but I just think that it's sick
that it took so much time. I think the
No. 1 thing is for me learning actually
how to be a father, and caring for
someone one-on-one. It's made me
love people better and respect people
better. Just, when you actually you
have to care for your child, you kind of
have adifferentoutlook on everything.
Q: Do you feel like you're going
on trial all over again, or do you think
Everyone's saying that I
counterfiled because she
wanted more money,
but the reason is that it
all takes time. She beat
me to the courthouse
steps. I didn't just file
you have the advantage because the
decision has already been made in
A: No, I'm not going to retry the
case or going to trial again. I don't
know if I feel an advantage or not. I
mean, look, I went into court with an
uphill battle, and I won on good evi-
dence, good witnesses, a fabulous at-
torney. I mean, the puzzle fit and I
won my case beyond what I think is
just a permanence and stability issue.
I won on more facets of the child
custody guidelines. So I feel confi-
dent and strong that I won, and I think
that evidence will stand -tall in the
appellate court too. I felt that the
appellate court didn't want to make
any waves in the case. These appel-
late judges are people too, and they're
going up for re-election in a few
Q: What issues are your attorneys
going to stress during the trial?
A: I just think that all the things
that were central in the past trial will
be relevant in this trial, if that's what
it's going to be. I think that all the
important things that we talked to the
media about, about Jennifer never
being home, the instability, the con-
stant arguing in the household, Jenni-
fer never being home, and not being
able to raise Maranda. This is an issue
that people bring up 'She did it for a
semester at U-M,' The fact is that
during that time, in her first semester
at U-M, every other weekend I had
Maranda, and every other weekend
Jenny was back home at her house in
Harrison Township. On Tuesdays and
Thursdays, Jenny would drop
Maranda off at day care and then I
would pick up Maranda at day care
and have her until 7:30 at night. So,
on Tuesdays and Thursdays, day care
and I had her all day - most of the
time I had her all day. Plus, the 30-35
hours a week that she was in day care
- how many hours did Jenny have
her? I mean the fact is yeah, (Ireland)
did have (Maranda) here but how
many hours did Maranda spend with
Jenny? How many hours did Jenny
care for Maranda? Where's the per-
manence and stability there?
Q: Do you think you will win the
A: Yeah, I'm confident that I will
win the appeal. Like I said, my goal is
to get her out of that situation as soon
as I can, and to get her into my home.
Her room's been ready, and I think
that I've been ready emotionally for
her to come home longer than her
room's been ready. I just want her to
come home to my home.
Q: Why do you think that you will
be able to spend moretime with Maranda
than Jennifer did with your classes?
A: I condensed my classes into
two days a week, Tuesday and Thurs-
day, then I have work on Monday and
Wednesday. I mean, my goal is just to
spend as much time with her as I can.
I'm her father and I'm going to take
responsibility to raise her, and I'm
going to go to school for an educa-
tion, and I have to work to pay for
essentials, but I'll be there as much as
I can, and I think that I'll be able to do
it. It'll call on both of my parents to
take an active role in raising her. But
my goal was never to pawn Maranda
off to my parents, and I'll be there as
much as I can. My father will be home
during the day, and that's when I'll
take my classes.
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Continued from page 1
licensed caregiver through a Univer-
sity program for 30 to 35 hours a week
while she attended classes at the Uni-
?ersity last fall term.
The case has brought out the worst
the two sides, not to mention their
Ireland is pressing charges against
Smith for assault, which Smith claims
that the charges are false. The inci-
dent, which occurred on Dec. 24,1993,
apparently took place during a dis-
cussion at Ireland's home when Smith
was requesting more visitation rights.
Smith claims that Ireland's mother
has raised Maranda and that the child
has been neglected. He also asserted
that his visitation rights have been
ignored. Ireland claims that Smith
has been delinquent in making his
child support payments, and that
Maranda, who has lived with Ireland
for most of her three years, will suffer
emotionally and developmentally if
she goes to live with her father.
However, Judge Cashen said,"It's
not about all that."
He said that of II points used in
custody cases to measure parental fit-
ness, the two measured up equally on
10 of them. Cashen based his decision
on Smith's superior ability to provide a
stable environment for the child.
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