Pierre Betine Joseph, a 49-year-old resident of Rolling Sands Drive in Palm Coast, was arrested on a felony child abuse charge after video footage from a secret camera installed by the victim’s siblings showed Joseph whipping his middle school son 11 times with two different belts as the child screams in pain and pleads for mercy, leaving welts on the child’s legs.
Joseph and his wife Carline Joseph have four children. The two youngest, 11 and 12, live with them. A 20-year-old son, C.J., is in college out of state, and an older sister, A.J., is also out of state. The two older children had installed a secret camera in the Palm Coast house because of Joseph’s history of abuse, they told authorities. A.J. told Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies that she had “endured multiple occasions of both physical and mental abuse while she was residing with her family and was afraid that her younger brothers were dealing with the same thing,” especially when her father drinks and becomes aggressive.
The Department of Children and Families had been called to the house in early October after C.J. sent a guidance counselor at a local middle school pictures of bruises on one of his his younger siblings’ legs. After that incident, according to A.J., Joseph “threatened both juveniles, advising if they contacted Law Enforcement again, he would continue to hurt them.”
On Tuesday, the two youngest children missed their school bus. They were afraid to tell their parents. So they rode their bikes to school. “I’m for sure getting whopped tomorrow bcuz of this,” one of the children texted C.J. “I’m in trouble badly, do I tell them I don’t feel safe going home today? Tomorrow? Yeah, I don’t think I will be safe, Mom’s mad at me.”
C.J. texts his brother to speak with counselors: “If you feel threatened, tell them about it too, they can move you away from them temporarily, so you don’t have to worry about being hit afterward. You just need to be completely honest with them, they will keep you safe.” The child responds that he is scared. “I know bro,” his older brother responds. “I would be too in your situation, but you are brave and strong. You will make it through this. If you tell them the truth, they can help you.”
The children cannot speak freely on the phone: their mother, Carline Joseph, monitors their conversations. While it is a third-degree felony to record an individual in private spaces if the individual is unaware, Florida law since 2015 has carved out an exception in cases when the recording is intended as evidence to show abuse against children.
On Wednesday, A.J. informed local authorities that Joseph had beaten one of the children in reprisals for them biking to school. When Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy Lauren Liptak went to the Rolling Sands Drive house, Carline looked surprised at the presence of police. She consented to the deputies entering the house and to seeing her sons eating dinner and doing homework. Liptak did not see any obvious signs of injuries on the children. She spoke with them, Carline standing nearby. Neither spoke of any instances of abuse. When Liptak asked them if they preferred to speak in private, they said it was fine if their mother stayed present.
Carline told Liptak that her husband speaks loudly, attributing that to a cultural thing, but doesn’t physically discipline the children. She was also uncomfortable with police’s presence: she did not want the neighbors seeing it. The deputy felt there was nothing left to investigate at the house proper at that point, but soon contacted C.J., who sent her a video file.
The three-minute file documents the beating. Carline Joseph is seen grabbing things off the kitchen table. Pierre Joseph is seen and heard screaming in Creole at his son, ordering him to stand in front of him, then whacking him with a belt on his lower thighs as the child screams and cries. Joseph struck his son twice in succession, paused to yell at his son, then struck him three more times before moving out of the camera view as the child screams in pain. Joseph returns with a different belt and resumes the assault as the child pleads for it to end, but the beating continues for a total of 11 strikes before Joseph tells his son to sit.
Liptak returned to the house. The children were in their bedrooms. When the deputy asked the alleged victim to raise his shorts, “I immediately saw red welts which appeared to be marks from the belt that occurred 5 hours prior,” the deputy reported in Joseph’s arrest affidavit. The child also had marks on his right outer arm, “which corroborated with the video footage, when he raised his hands to prevent from further being struck.”
The other child said he had not been struck, but there was an old scar the deputy noticed on his upper left back, which the boy attributed to Joseph striking him with a wire, which cut into his skin. Law enforcement was never notified. His mother cleaned up the wound.
Throughout, the children’s mother “did not show any signs of remorse,” the report states, telling the deputy her husband was at work at Boston Whaler, where Joseph was called to an office, and where his arrest was carried out. Joseph told Liptak that he does not “intentionally strike his children to cause any injuries.” He was upset that they had missed their bus, because they live four miles away from school and riding bikes on roads to school can be dangerous. He initially denied hitting the child. After being shown photographs of the injuries, he admitted to striking him about five times.
When told he had struck him 11 times, he asked “if there was a law on how many times a parent could strike their children.”
In fact, there is no such law. In fact, while 63 countries now forbid any form of corporal punishment, Florida law, like the law in all 50 states, allows parents to beat their children without penalty, as long as the beating is not malicious and the beating does not use “excessive force.” The law states: “Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.” Discipline is considered “excessive” when it results in sprains, dislocations, or cartilage damage, bone or skull fractures, brain or spinal cord damage, intracranial hemorrhage or injury to other internal organs, asphyxiation, suffocation, or drowning, burns or scalding, and so on.
“Significant bruises or welts” is also on the list, but beating children, punching them, hurting or torturing them in ways that don’t leave visible marks is legal under Florida law.
Liptak concluded that Joseph had been abusive. “One could conclude that a reasonable parent would not engage in damaging acts toward their child for any valid reason” the report states. “In doing so, [Joseph]’s intentional act caused [the child] to endure unjustifiable pain and sustain visible injuries. [The child] was afraid to inform me of what had occurred, fearing that he was going to get ‘whopped’ by” Joseph.
Joseph was booked at the Flagler County jail on $7,500 bond, which he posted. He is under court order to have no contact with both younger children, which means he may not reside at the family house, if that’s where the children remain, pending the disposition of the case.
Abuse Hotline: Report Abuse Online
The Florida Abuse Hotline accepts reports 24 hours a day and 7 days a week of known or suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and reports of known or suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Please use the links below to report a child or adult abuse.
If you suspect or know of a child or vulnerable adult in immediate danger, call 911.
TTY: 711 or 1-800-955-8771
Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare is a mandatory reporter. § 39.201(1)(a), Florida Statutes.
To report an allegation in Spanish or Creole, please call 1-800-962-2873, for TTY use 711 or 1-800-955-8771. This toll free number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with counselors waiting to assist you.