By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
In a court case that involved what one attorney called a “misguided approach” to child discipline, a man pleaded guilty Thursday to reduced misdemeanor criminal abuse charges.
Joshua McWhorter Dillion pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree criminal abuse. He originally had been indicted on two counts of first-degree criminal abuse.
If he had been convicted on the felony charges, he would have faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The case was resolved through a process called felony mediation, in which the attorneys presented summaries of their cases to a special judge, who then worked with both sides, plus the victims, to come to an agreement on a suitable punishment.
In this case, the grandfather of the two preteen victims took part in the mediation. He is the custodial party, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith.
The mediation agreement called for Dillion to be sentenced to the maximum for each misdemeanor, which is 12 months in jail. However, the sentence will be diverted for two years provided Dillion has no contact with his stepsons and follows all family court orders.
During the hearing, Dillion initially said the abuse was an accident, saying his stepsons often fought with each other and wrestled.
“If you weren’t guilty of anything, then you need a trial,” Judge Jean Chenault-Logue said. “Didn’t you hit one (child) in the head with a bat?”
“It sounds that way, but it was an accident,” Dillion said, adding he would pull the children’s ears or kick them in the behind to break up their fights.
Smith interjected, explaining that what Dillion did to the boys was a “misguided approach to disciplining these stepchildren.”
“Mr. Dillion’s counsel made a compelling presentation that in Mr. Dillion’s mind, this wasn’t abuse,” Smith said.
Dillion was represented by attorney Jimmy Dale Williams.
Smith said there were several instances of ear-pinching and finger-pulling. In one instance, Dillion grabbed one boy by the neck of his sweatshirt and pulled, leaving a mark on the child’s neck.
Smith said the second incident involved Dillion’s use of a toy mini-bat, but it did leave a visible injury.
At the end of the hearing while discussing the requirement that Dillion have no contact with the victims, Logue inquired about his status with the boys’ mother. Smith said the mother and Dillion have a baby in common, and she has chosen to stay with him instead of her two older children.
Dillion is scheduled for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. May 9.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.