It was a jarring day in a Florida courtroom on Friday as disturbing camera footage was played for the jury during the trial of a father who is accused of locking his adopted son in a box-like room for hours at a time.
Timothy Ferriter, 48, and his wife allegedly kept the boy, who was 14 years old at the time, in the windowless 8ft x 8ft box with only a bed, a bucket and a camera.
His attorney told the court that they had struggled with their son’s behavioural issues after adopting him as a toddler from an orphanage in Vietnam.
While the jurors and those in the courtroom were able to see the visuals from the video, outsiders were only able to hear audio, which was streamed on CourtTV, because the boy was a minor.
But viewers said the audio was disturbing enough and took to the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to express their disgust in what they were hearing.
“You want your entire day ruined check out the trial and hashtag #BoyInaBox,” one viewer wrote on X as the Ring camera footage played out in court.
To the viewers not in the courtroom, Ferriter could be heard yelling and cursing at the boy, mostly about cleaning out a bucket it appeared was given to him to use as a toilet.
“Did you piss in the bucket?” he yelled at the boy, instructing him to take it outside to dispose of the contents. “Grab it! Clean it. Don’t let the neighbors see you dump the bucket!”
The audio of his actions deeply upset viewers. “I was abused by a stepparent, and I find what they did disgusting. I know what abuse is, I lived it. That’s abuse,” wrote one.
“I am LIVID! Hearing this audio has my blood boiling!!!” another said. “This is almost unbearable to watch at this point… wow.”
During opening statements, prosecutor Brianna Coakley told the court that the teenager had run away from the family’s Jupiter home in January 2022, which alerted authorities to the conditions he was being forced to live in.
“There was a structure – a small room, box-like structure that was constructed in the garage that didn’t have any windows. It had a box spring and a mattress, a bucket in the corner and a desk,” she said, adding that Ferriter and his wife “turned off that light and left their 14-year-old son locked in that room in the dark.”
The boy, who is not being identified or shown in media coverage, took the stand on Thursday, where he described how he spent hours locked in the box room with only a bucket for a bathroom.
“To me, being locked in a room, it’s dehumanizing. It’s almost as bad as genocide,” he said. “It’s saddening to abuse a child that was just acting like a child.”
During cross-examination, the boy shocked many when he said that he does not blame his adoptive parents.
“I don’t have a bad image of Tim and Tracy. They just made a mistake,” he said. “They were just acting out of frantic surprise of my actions. They were, I believe, they weren’t trying to do any harm," the teen said. "I believe that people should recognize that was a mistake and forgive them and move on.”
Ferriter’s attorney Pyra Murad said the family had tried to get help from doctors, therapists and schools but nothing had improved the behaviour, according to WPTV.
“For years, he was continuing to engage in these behaviours and would not stop,” Ms Murad said. “Bad parenting doesn’t make a person a criminal.”
Ferriter is charged with aggravated child abuse, false imprisonment and an added count of child neglect.
If convicted, he faces 40 years in prison after turning down a plea deal that would have seen him serve 24 months behind bars and five years of probation.
His wife Tracy has also been charged, but is being tried separately. A trial date has not yet been set in her case.