Stephen J. Sanchez said Thursday he knew it was wrong to take a belt to his girlfriend’s 3-year-old after the boy knocked over his guitar.
Sanchez, 23, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to cruelty to children. His attorney, Penelope Donkar, of the public defender’s office, told the judge she understood that Sanchez didn’t have a chance for probation alone and so asked for a sentence of less than three years in prison.
Judge J. Wade Padgett sentenced Sanchez to 10 years in prison. followed by 10 years on probation.
Sanchez had no history of violence. He had a GED, worked and had plans to continue his education, Donkar said. Sanchez didn’t intend to hurt the boy but the discipline was excessive, she said.
Teachers at the boy’s preschool saw bruises and scars and called the sheriff’s office, said Assistant District Attorney Titus Nichols. Sanchez admitted to an investigator that he hit the boy with a belt on two occasions after the child knocked over his guitar, Nichols said. The second time, the boy tried to run and hide in his room but Sanchez caught him. Nichols showed pictures of the child to the judge.
Padgett asked Sanchez whether he had ever been so badly beaten that the skin broke on his buttocks and scabbed over. He had, Sanchez said.
One would go to prison for beating a dog like that, and this was a 3-year-old boy, Padgett said. Sanchez and his girlfriend failed to seek medical treatment for the child.
“This was a tragedy for the child, as well as for you,” Padgett told the defendant.