On Wednesday at the DuPage County Courthouse, a former Naperville North High School student who was battling a theft ticket for years took the witness stand to defend herself, claiming that she hadn’t intended to take another student’s AirPods.
Amara Harris, who received a municipal citation for disruptive behavior at school, told the six-person jury on the second day of her trial, “I didn’t take them; I didn’t steal them.
In 2019, when Harris was 17, a Naperville police officer assigned to her school issued her a theft ticket. Since then, she has continued to insist that she accidentally gave the AirPods to the wrong person and has refused to pay a fine or resolve the dispute.
In addition to other factors, the prosecution claimed that Harris was “caught with her hand in the cookie jar” because the serial number on the AirPods she was in possession of matched the one on the other student’s set. She was issued a theft ticket.
The jury, consisting of two women and four men, was presented with the case in the afternoon. Deliberations will continue on Thursday.
The controversy surrounding the practice of police officers ticketing students at schools, which was covered by the Tribune and ProPublica in their investigation “The Price Kids Pay” last year, has been influenced by the protracted legal dispute between Harris and the city of Naperville.
The burden of proof in Harris’ case is lighter than it would be in a criminal case because it involves a civil violation. Only a “preponderance of the evidence” supporting the allegation, or that it is highly likely to have occurred, must be presented by the prosecution. The maximum fine and court costs for having a theft ticket are $500 and $100, respectively. No potential jail time exists.
When issued a municipal ordinance citation, the majority of students accept responsibility and pay the fine. The lower standard of proof makes contesting the theft tickets challenging and expensive.