When a former Georgia police chief and his wife were charged with 31 felony charges that included two counts of aggravated child molestation, one of child molestation and 28 of first-degree cruelty to children people assumed the two would serve time in prison for a very long time. Their trial was only days away when the prosecutor and defense attorney struck a deal that has many child advocates today are scratching their head about. Instead of the possibility of life behind bars, the former police and his wife have been sentenced to only 10 years each. They’ll serve 25 consecutive weekends in the county jail; the rest will be served on probation and they will be registered as first time offenders, which indicates they will not have a felony criminal history and Richard Burton is not required to register as a sex offender.
The case of Richard Burton and his Cheryle Burton, who were the adoptive parents of 12 children is a case that has residents of Habersham County, talking about possible preferential treatment due to Burton’s position as former police chief. The prosecutor denies such charges, but questions continue to rise with the publication of the sentences that were handed down. Instead of being charged as felons and registered as a sexual predator Burton will serve his time on weekends, same with his wife.
What neighbors and friends saw as a loving family was actually a home of terror say 4 of their adopted children. According to WFMYNEWS2, “It was good at first, but something changed,” one of the boy’s said. The kids range in age from 13 to 19 now. According to another child, “Getting hit in the head with a wooden paddle, being swung around the room, throwing us on the walls we had to stand upside down on the corner on our heads,” He continues, “We had to eat noodles and they would put leftover food that they didn’t want into our pot of noodles. We didn’t have warm food, it was cold from the refrigerator.” They tell how difficult it is to talk about the cruelty they faced in the Burton household, but they also know it they it could help others who face abuse to be open and honest about their lives.
The plea was entered before Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Chan Caudell and was recommended by Prosecutor Chief Assistant District Attorney Eddie Staples said of the plea “The reason is it provides finality and an admission of wrongdoing that I think is beneficial for the children involved without them having to go through trial discussing their life in public.” Fran Chastain the new mom to the 4 children could not disagree more. In an interview WCNC.com Chastain stated that “I think it’s way too light and that the lack of punishment is just sending this wrong message.” Continuing she stated that the witness list for the defendants are the real reasons behind the plea deal, I think maybe in this case the witness list influenced the (prosecutor’s) decision.” The prosecutor agreed with her assessment. Prosecutor Staples said, “A number of people who were called to testify on the Burtons’ behalf were “law enforcement people.” The same people that he tells juries are trustworthy on a daily basis. He made the decision not to go to trial. One good outcome, though that the Burton’s probation prohibits them from ever working in law enforcement or adopting children ever again.