South Bend Tribune
5:12 PM EST, January 30, 2013
PLYMOUTH — A Plymouth man was sentenced Wednesday morning to three years in prison after admitting to abusing his 8-year-old son last summer — but still faces three unresolved misdemeanor court cases, one involving the same child.
And before Christopher Warren pleaded guilty to one count of Class D felony battery in an agreement that dismissed a second count, his public defender asked for a Tribune reporter to be removed from the courtroom.
The boy’s case has been the topic of four Tribune articles in the past year.
Warren has been in the Marshall County Jail since Aug. 7, when he was accused of beating his son so badly the boy was taken to a hospital. Marshall Superior Court Judge Robert Bowen sentenced Warren to the three years — the maximum term for a D felony — agreed to in the plea agreement.
Before sentencing, the boy’s mother, Amber McNeal, told the judge about her son’s ordeal in the last few years of living with his father. Warren had at least three other substantiated abuse charges against him related to his son since 2010, Department of Child Services documents showed, but the boy was allowed to remain in his father’s custody.
“I feel that (my son) deserves not only stability and safety but also the time to understand that he does not need to worry about the possibility of being placed in his father’s care,” McNeal read from a prepared statement held up by an arm tattooed with her son’s name inside a small green banner.
McNeal said outside of the courtroom that she has recently passed her parenting assessment and looks forward to her son being returned to her, after he finishes therapeutic treatment in Indianapolis.
Although the judge issued a no-contact order between Warren and his son when the charges were filed, McNeal said DCS officials do not rule out the possibility of allowing Warren future visitation rights with his son.
According to documents, the boy was taken to the sheriff’s department and questioned in August. He said his father had hit him — with a hand encased in a cast — and kicked him.
The boy told them his father was angry that it was 30 minutes past his bedtime of 8 p.m., and although the man wasn't home, his girlfriend called him, the documents say.
The boy "stated that his dad came in his room and started yelling and his dad threw the 'Whack-A-Mole' game at him," the records say, before Warren began to hit the boy.
Warren told DCS "he did not want to talk about it"; he admitted the incident to the detective, the report says, "but stated that he was drunk and does not remember anything."
A doctor exam revealed "domestic abuse, multiple trauma with acute pain," the DCS record says.
‘My client’s requests’
Warren did not speak much in court Wednesday morning, his left leg bouncing up and down as he told the judge he understood the terms of the pact and that he admitted the abuse.
But as Bowen began to address the case, Warren’s public defender, Jeffery Houin, broke in.
“My client’s been the subject of many media articles and much maligned in those articles,” Houin said, referring to inaccuracies and information that had not before been released to the public.
“We’d ask that any representative of the media be removed from the courtroom,” Houin said.
“Well, anything said in here is a public record,” Bowen responded, “... I’m not going to exclude anyone from here, OK?”
After court, a reporter asked Houin about any inaccuracies in the earlier reports.
“I’m simply representing my client’s requests,” he said, “and other than that I don’t have any comment.”
Pre-sentence hearings in Warren’s pending three cases — four misdemeanor counts in all, two alleging battery and two criminal mischief — are set for Feb. 8.
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