The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Jonathan Ashley McGuire
Friday, December 13, 2013
By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer
A Hardy man pleaded guilty Wednesday in Franklin County Circuit Court to two counts of misdemeanor assault for striking two minor children with a belt.
However, Jonathan Ashley McGuire, 33, entered a plea of "not guilty" to a felony child abuse charge for allegedly hitting his 3-year-old son with such force the belt left deep red imprints on the child's skin.
"You struck your son so hard that the holes in the belt and the ridges and lines in the mesh are visible on his skin," said prosecutor Patrick Nix while showing McGuire photos of his son that were taken the day after the incident on June 6.
McGuire, who did not dispute the prosecution's evidence, admitted to Nix that he was "out of control with my anger" and "lost my temper."
McGuire's defense attorney, Patrick Kenney, argued that McGuire was not guilty of felony child abuse. He said the language in the felony statute under which McGuire is charged is too broad and that McGuire's conduct was covered in the misdemeanor assault charge to which he pleaded guilty.
"His son was out of control," Kenney said. "He (McGuire) acted criminally.... My client lost his temper. The facts are not in dispute."
"(But) This was not systematic abuse," Kenney added. "It was an isolated incident, a one-time unfortunate incident."
Nix disagreed with Kenney's assessment, saying the felony statute was well established and quoting case law to validate his argument that McGuire's actions were not those of a misdemeanor assault.
"There was a large amount of force applied to leave those marks on his (the boy's) skin," Nix said.
During his testimony, McGuire said his son's behavior that evening was "exceptionally bad." The boy had urinated on the carpet behind a recliner, threw nightcrawlers on the floor and hit his 5-year-old sister, he said.
"I lost my temper," McGuire said. "I whipped him three times.... I accidentally hit my daughter."
"When I noticed the mark on his neck, I fell down on my knees and held him. I promised him it would never happen again," McGuire added. "I was sad, appalled at myself. I could not believe what I had done."
"I intended to whip him, not beat or torture him," McGuire added. "I wanted to punish him, change his behavior. I wanted my son to be good and listen to me."
McGuire also testified that his children did not require any medical care for their injuries.
During his cross-examination, Nix read several text messages obtained from McGuire's wife's cell phone, asking McGuire if he sent them to his wife that evening. McGuire acknowledged that he did send the texts.
In one text message, McGuire wrote that he was going to "end up whipping the s*** out of these kids."
In another text, McGuire used profane language to describe the boy when telling his wife the boy had urinated behind the recliner.
"They (the kids) had tortured me all night, doing everything they could to get under my skin, and that was it. I let him have it," McGuire wrote after the incident.
McGuire also admitted to texting his wife to say his son could not be seen in public without a high-collared shirt, buttoned up.
During his closing argument, Nix told the judge that "this 3-year-old child was savagely beaten. This was a beating."
Although Judge W.N. Alexander said that there is "no question that the child was beaten," he delayed his decision on the felony child abuse charge until McGuire's sentencing hearing on Feb. 3 at 4 p.m.
McGuire's wife, Tiffany M. McGuire, pleaded guilty in September to one misdemeanor count of making a false statement to investigators.
Tiffany McGuire lied to investigators about knowing what happened to the children, according to prosecutor Robert Deatherage. She later admitted to being scared to tell the investigators that she knew what her husband had done, although she was not home when the incident occurred.
Tiffany McGuire was sentenced to 12 months in jail, but served only 16 days of the sentence on alternating weekends.