Breaking News Bar
posted: 9/15/2013 5:00 AM

Naperville case raises question: How far to go to protect your child?

Success - Article sent! close

Ask any parent: Would you do anything for your child?

Of course, just about any parent would say.

How about if your child, age 24, came home drunk, a cop on his tail who says he was driving 124 miles per hour at 2 a.m. in a residential portion of Naperville? Would you try to take the fall for him?

As widely reported last week, Konnor Burns was charged with speeding, DUI and reckless driving. Police say he was seen twice driving his Dodge Charger more than 100 mph in the wee hours last Saturday. An officer recognized Burns and went to his house, where his 60-year-old father said he was behind the wheel. The cop wasn't buying, and the dad was charged with interfering with police.

Suddenly, "anything" takes on a whole new context.

The first person to post a comment on that story on didn't equivocate.

"Here's a message to my son, if you ever do something like this I will not be attempting to take the blame for you," he said. "You will probably want the police to take you and lock you up. They will be easier on you than I will be."

I was particularly struck by this story because of age similarities: I have a 24-year-old son, and I'm just a shade older than the senior Burns. Thank God that seems to be all we have in common this week. But it did give me pause to ponder exactly how far a parent should go to protect a child. What if the kid was sober, accused of driving, maybe 15 miles over the limit. Not likely a police officer would be on your doorstep, but you get my drift; where, exactly, do you draw the line? Is following the letter of the law thicker than blood?

So, I asked my son how much protection he'd expect from his father under similar circumstances. He didn't equivocate, either. "You're doing your child zero favors by trying to take the fall for him," he said.

Last week's events in Naperville seem to be a pretty clear-cut case of a young adult having to face the consequences of his alleged actions. But the situation still seems like one of those board games about scruples: At what point should a parent stop protecting a child?

Something to ponder.

Speaking of moral decisions:

Another case involving cars and morals was in the news last week. This one, though, had a tragic outcome.

Kevin McCartney was sentenced to nine years in prison by a DuPage County judge who called him a "coward" for leaving his friend to die after crashing his car in Wheaton. For two years, while the matter was under investigation, McCartney "lived his life as if nothing happened," Judge Blanche Hill Fawell said.

As staff writer Josh Stockinger relayed, McCartney was 19 when his speeding Volkswagen GTI slammed into a tree along Dufree Road in Wheaton. He was driving Gregory Hoctor, 18, home from a party where they both had been drinking. Afterward, McCartney moved his badly injured passenger to make it look as if Hoctor had been behind the wheel. Then McCartney went back to the party, telling friends Hoctor had attacked him and stolen the car. Hoctor was unconscious but still breathing when officers found him roughly two hours after the crash. He was pronounced dead later that day.

It took Wheaton police two years, though, to put together a case, which involved scientific forensic evidence and other complex matters. In that time McCartney attended college and got into a couple scrapes with the law over marijuana and alcohol.

At his sentencing, McCartney showed the remorse that some might argue was way overdue.

"If I could," he said, "I would take his place."

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.