A Mississippi man who was sold to a traveling circus at the age of three in 1993 by his mother has been ordered by the court to pay back the sum of $1,2 million dollars before he can get his freedom back.
Jared Arnold, 28, was sold in 1993 to the owner of Circus Magicus, Todd Bentley, by his mother Tamara Lee Arnold.
The contract specified at the time that M. Bentley took legal ownership of Jared until his 21st birthday, after which he would have to pay all expenses for which Circus Magicus had taken care of and thus would be set free from his contract.
“He just has to repay what he cost us for the first 21 years of his life and he’s free to go” Circus Magicus owner, Todd Bentley told reporters.
“I understand my mother had addiction problems at the time and M. Bentley possibly saved my life, but at a wage of 9 dollars an hour, I’ll be shoveling elephant shit for the next 53 years if I have to repay this debt,” Arnold said in court.
Jared Arnold first recalled the many jobs he had during his 20 years with the circus, of which he left five years ago at the age of 23.
“I first dressed up as a midget, then I learned to juggle with fire and explosives before I burned myself and eventually became an acrobat. A back injury left me paralyzed when I fell from 30 feet high up in the air and these are the hospital bills I am still paying today,” he explained in court.
A number of injuries led Jared’s adoptive father, Todd Bentley, to pay for over $585,769 in hospital fees over the past eight years.
Judge Andrew Neil told Arnold that the contract was clear and legal according to Mississippi laws at the time and that “it was only fair” that he would pay back his hospital bills and living fees since M. Bentley was not his biological father and agreed, upon certain terms, to take full responsibility for the young infant at the time.
Judge Neil also allowed the defendant to keep his job as a Starbucks barista, where he presently works, to pay off his debt towards Circus Magicus explaining that as long as he paid back his debt he could work “wherever he wanted.”
Arnold’s lawyer pleaded the judge to reduce his client’s debt, claiming that at his current wage it would take the defendant over 28 years to pay back his debt but the demand was swiftly denied by the judge.