A grandfather who admitted to hitting a 6-year-old boy with a belt had no conviction recorded against him after Magistrate Valdis Foldats heard details of the case.
Defense attorney Jonathon Hughes explained that the boy was his client’s grandson. The child had been throwing stones at a neighbor’s window and the defendant spoke to him and told him to stop. A little while later, he heard the noise again and saw the boy throwing stones again. He took a belt and hit the boy across the back of his legs “three or four or five times.”
The incident was reported to police after the boy’s aunt saw marks on him. The belt did not break the boy’s skin, but photographs did show bruise-like marks.
The defendant was initially charged with assault causing actual bodily harm and cruelty to a child. These charges were not proceeded with after the man pleaded guilty to common assault.
Mr. Hughes said his client had enrolled in a parenting class after the incident so he could learn how to discipline his grandchildren.
The magistrate and the attorney referred to background details in a social inquiry report. The defendant had assumed care for the boy and his siblings after their father, his son, died. He looked after them financially and as a father-figure.
When the children misbehaved, the man spoke to them or disciplined them by taking away a privilege. The incident with the belt was “a one-off,” the magistrate concluded.
Mr. Hughes pointed out that the defendant had no previous convictions. He had grown up in a culture that did not see anything wrong with using a belt for discipline.
The magistrate agreed that “In the past, corporal punishment was the norm. Times have changed. Adults hitting children is a serious matter.”
He said the word needed to get out. The defendant was directed to complete the counseling program he had started and to keep the peace for 12 months or pay $950.