(MCT) — CHICAGO — In a rare move Friday, a Cook County, Ill., judge reversed himself, reducing to a misdemeanor a man's felony conviction for posting on Facebook a photo of his young daughter bound and gagged with tape.
The move by Judge Lawrence Flood came two months after he convicted Andre Curry of aggravated domestic battery and aggravated battery, both felonies, and was scheduled to sentence him to a potential prison term. Instead the judge sentenced Curry to 18 months of probation and ordered him to take parenting classes.
In reducing Curry's conviction to misdemeanor domestic battery, the judge said that after reviewing the law, he found prosecutors had not proved Curry intended to obstruct the child's breathing. Flood cited testimony from police and Curry's sister that the tape was over the girl's mouth for only a few seconds.
"In your rush to show everyone how funny you were, you used . . . a helpless 22-month-old child, who was completely dependent on you, as a prop," the judge lectured the 22-year-old father. "This was not funny, OK? I want you to understand the gravity of your lack of judgment in this case."
Family members have said that Curry is playful and the photograph was meant to be a joke. But 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 had seen it.
Curry told police he was playing with his daughter 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.
On Friday, Curry thanked the judge in a soft voice and apologized to his family.
After Curry's felony conviction in November, his attorney, Sam Adam Jr., blasted prosecutors, saying they had overcharged the case because of the publicity and should have been more concerned about what's best for the child.
"How is he going to provide for this child as a convicted felon?" Adam said at the time. "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?"
Adam filed a motion asking Flood to reconsider the verdict, leading to the judge's reversal Friday.
After the court hearing, Curry was asked what he learned from the ordeal. "Think before you do," he said emphatically.
Curry said he was looking forward to seeing his daughter soon. Since his release from jail early last year after 39 days in custody, he was allowed only supervised visits with his daughter. That restriction will be lifted as long as he completes the parenting classes and stays out of trouble.
"I'm gonna pick her up and throw her in the air," Curry said, smiling. "And I'm going to catch her and spin her around."