19th Judicial Circuit District Attorney Randall Houston will ask the Alabama Legislature to increase the possible penalty for Aggravated Child Abuse for a child under six years of age to life in prison when it convenes for its regular session in February.
“I stood in court last week to oppose a bond request made by a mother who, along with her boyfriend, heinously abused her four-year-old son to the point that he was near death,” Houston said. “As I looked that defendant in the eye and thought of the ways she and her boyfriend had abused her own son, I realized that the current penalties for such monstrous acts are inadequate and must be toughened so those who commit them can stare at the four cold walls of a prison cell for the rest of their lives.”
He’s talking about a case involving a 4 year old boy. In September, he was found unresponsive and injured in the back of a car in Florida. His mother Hallee McLeod and her boyfriend Scott Hicks now face aggravated child abuse charges. McLeod has also been charged with chemical endangerment of a child. Hicks is being held in Florida, but Houston successfully opposed McLeod’s bond reduction request last week.
“Nothing can erase the trauma that this child suffered, but if we can ensure that the severity of the penalty truly matches the severity of the crime, then perhaps justice can be fully obtained,” Houston said. “As a prosecutor I take my responsibility to ensure the protection of the most defenseless among us very seriously, and toughening our aggravated child abuse law will help accomplish that mission.”
“I will be working in the coming weeks to line up bill sponsors and recruit child protective service organizations and local families of child victims to lay the groundwork for passing this important and much needed legislation,” he noted.
Under current Alabama law, aggravated child abuse is a Class B felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison, but Houston said he will ask the Legislature to pass a law elevating the crime to a Class A felony punishable by 10 to 99 years, or life, in prison in cases involving a child younger than six-years-old. The new sentencing guidelines would mean aggravated child abuse would be raised to the same level as attempted murder charges.