Angered at the news that his son was again in trouble at school, Sam Malone decided driving home that he would whip the teen with a belt, the former Cincinnati city councilman testified Wednesday during his trial on domestic abuse charges.
After finding out from his 14-year-old's teacher that the boy hadn't checked in when he was supposed to during a field trip to Paramount's Kings Island, Malone arrived at home May 13 to find his son walking out the basement door ready to explain the incident.
"Stop. Save it," he told the boy. "Go upstairs and meditate, and I'll be up there in a minute to deal with you."
Malone said he took his dress shirt off because he "needed a range of motion" and got a casual belt from his closet before going to his son's bedroom, where the boy stood in his underwear.
Holding the two ends of the belt in one hand, Malone raised his hand "as high as his shoulder" and brought the leather down at least twice on the boy's buttocks, he said.
That's where Malone's story diverges from testimony his son gave earlier in the week during the trial in Hamilton County Municipal Court.
While the boy said he was knocked to the ground by the whacks, Malone said his son turned around and grabbed his wrists.
Malone, a high school wrestler, former boxer and power lifter who could bench 250 pounds, said he used a wrestling maneuver to subdue his son and bring him to the floor, where he continued to strike him with the belt at least four times.
Hospital pictures show welts on the boy's buttock, back, stomach, arms and legs, including at least one mark that appeared to be from a belt buckle.
"He decided to grab my wrist and move," Malone said. That's why he missed the boy's buttocks at times, he said.
He said he was never angry when administering the punishment, even though he admitted he told the boy he would "beat the black off" him.
The Kings Island incident, in which a teacher told Malone his son had been seen making a face at her, seemed like a "pattern of disrespect for women," Malone said.
The boy had previously talked back once to Malone's mother and Malone's fiancÚ since coming to live with Malone three years earlier, after the boy's biological mother died, Malone said.
"I cannot allow you to grow up thinking you can disrespect authority," Malone said he told his son.
With testimony over, Judge Russell Mock will rule Feb. 17 whether the punishment Malone meted out amounts to domestic violence or falls within the realm of parental right to discipline a child.
The law is not clear on where the line is.
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that a parent's right to use corporal punishment can be classified as domestic violence if it goes too far, but the court didn't define what constitutes that.
Ohio's First District Court of Appeals has ruled that parents can use corporal punishment as long as it is "reasonable and prudent" and does not cause a risk of death, serious physical injury or substantial pain.
Prosecutors in Malone's case argued in closing statements that he inflicted substantial pain.
"That belt got loose. That buckle (mark) lasted until December," said Anne Murray, an assistant Columbus city prosecutor assigned to the case after Cincinnati city prosecutors recused themselves because of Malone being a councilman. The injuries Malone inflicted were also not prudent and reasonable, she said. "He whipped first and talked later," she said.
From WCPO.COM, May 14, 2005:|
...Arnold Dillard, of Walnut Hills, says he lived next door to Malone before the councilman moved a few months ago to 852 Lincoln Avenue.
He says the arrest doesn't surprise him.
"This window right here in the middle -- you could actually hear screaming from there, and telling him, 'Stop Dad, stop'," said Dillard...
From WKRC.COM news report, May 16, 2005:
Shows child's injuries and plays portion of child's 911 call.
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