By Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO—An attorney vowed an appeal after a Cook County judge on Thursday convicted a father of felony battery charges for binding and gagging his young daughter with tape and then posting a photo on Facebook, causing a sensation on the Internet.
Attorney Sam Adam Jr. accused prosecutors of overcharging the case because of the publicity and said the domestic battery law wasn’t intended to punish a loving parent who made a mistake but didn’t injure his child.
“This (law) is for people who beat their wives. This is for people who beat their kids,” said Adam, who represented Andre Curry, the father. “That is not this case.”
But Judge Lawrence Flood found Curry guilty of charges of aggravated domestic battery and aggravated battery, saying in a brief ruling that by placing tape over the girl’s mouth, he had obstructed her breathing for his own enjoyment.
“To use a child … as a toy or a prop in an odd attempt at humor is conduct of an insulting or provoking nature,” Flood said.
The judge had acquitted Curry of a charge of unlawful restraint after a brief bench trial late last month.
Curry, dressed in a sweater and tie, kept his head down and his hands behind his back as the judge spoke. His lawyers have said it was a stupid prank by the 22-year-old father.
He faces up to seven years in prison, but he has never before been in trouble and could be placed on probation. He remains free on bond pending the sentencing Nov. 29.
Curry told police he was playing with his then-22-month-old daughter last December at their South Side home and used blue painter’s tape to bind her ankles and wrists and cover her mouth. He then snapped a photo and uploaded it on his Facebook page.
Across the top of the photo were the words: “This is wut happens wen my baby hits me back,” according to prosecutors and police reports. The message was followed with a winking emoticon.
The image went viral on the Internet, prompting a flood of calls to police and state child-welfare authorities from Curry’s friends on Facebook and others who saw the image.
At the time, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said it had no previous contact with the family. As a result of the charges, though, Curry’s contact with his daughter has been limited.
Adam said prosecutors should have focused less on winning a felony conviction and more on doing what’s best for the child, who now has a father who will find it difficult to find a job and support her financially.
“How is he going to provide for this child as a convicted felon?” Adam said. “Do you know what it’s like to be a black man in America with a felony in your background? Who’s going to hire him? How is he going to make a living?
“Yes, this was stupid. Yes, he put it on Facebook. Yes, he made some silly remarks. But that’s not felony action,” Adam said. “That’s not what the legislature intended, and we’re going to have to take it up (on) appeal.”
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office did not return a call seeking comment on Adam’s remarks.