A Cook County judge on Friday reversed himself, reducing the conviction to a misdemeanor for a dad who posted a Facebook photo of his 22-month-old bound and gagged with tape.
Judge Lawrence Flood had convicted Andre Curry in November of aggravated domestic battery and aggravated battery, both felonies, and was scheduled to sentence him Friday when he did an abrupt about-face.
In reducing Curry's conviction to misdemeanor domestic battery, the judge said that after reviewing the law, he found no intent to obstruct the child's breathing. He sentenced Curry to 18 months of probation and ordered him to take parenting classes.
Despite his change of heart, Flood said that Curry showed an extreme "lack of judgment."
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"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," Flood said. "This was not funny, OK? I want you to understand the gravity of your lack of judgment in this case."
Curry thanked the judge in a soft voice and apologized to his family.
"I'm sorry for everybody who's been on the edge of their seats out there," he said.
Curry, 22, had been free on bond since his felony conviction but had faced up to seven years in prison before the judge changed his mind.
At trial, Flood had acquitted Curry of unlawful restraint but found him guilty of the two battery counts, 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 at the time.
Curry told police he was playing with his daughter one night at their South Side Chicago 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.
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.