The trial of a London man accused of stabbing his toddler son during a confrontation with police last fall was averted on Tuesday, Feb. 25, when the defendant abruptly agreed to a plea bargain.
With a jury assembled and ready for work, Jonathan Davis, 32, entered an “Alford” guilty plea to felony child endangering. In return, Assistant Madison County Prosecutor Nick Adkins dismissed additional charges of child endangering and felonious assault.
Davis refused a previous plea deal, involving a five-year prison sentence, Adkins said.
“Alford” guilty pleas are rare in the county’s common pleas court. Based on the 1970 U.S. Supreme Court case North Carolina v. Alford, the plea allowed Davis to maintain innocence while admitting evidence is overwhelming that he recklessly put his child in harm’s way. Essentially, the defendant is saying he didn’t do what he is accused of, but realizes there is enough evidence that prosecutors could probably get a conviction anyway.
Davis faces up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine for the second-degree felony conviction. While some prison time is likely, Davis could also be placed on community control for five years.
Judge Eamon Costello ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set sentencing for April 21. In the meantime, Davis remains in Tri-County Regional Jail under a reduced $250,000 bond.
Davis was arrested at the rear of Oak Hill Cemetery about 5 a.m. on Sept. 28, after threatening to kill both himself and his then 19-month-old son. A 9-1-1 call from the child’s mother, Davis’ former girlfriend, alerted city police to the threat.
Davis held a knife to the child as officers and a sheriff’s deputy approached. He refused repeated commands to put the weapon and child down. Davis attempted to flee with the boy and was felled by a police Taser, a report said.
The child suffered a severe abdominal puncture wound, but later recovered.
In dismissing the felonious assault charges, Adkins conceded the stabbing was likely an unintentional result of the Tasing and fall.
While witnesses and a pool of 28 potential jurors waited in the hall on Tuesday, Costello listened to complex legal arguments from defense attorneys and Adkins over wording of the charges, eventual jury instructions and what evidence a jury should see and hear.
In pre-trial motions, defense attorneys Mike Murray and Seth Schertzinger urged Costello to throw out police photos implying marijuana use by Davis and a portion of the mother’s 9-1-1 call, saying both would taint jurors against their client.
Costello allowed presentation of the photo evidence, but agreed to exclude the mother’s statements about previous abuse by Davis. The defendant had never before been charged with domestic violence against the woman or her child.
Jane Beathard can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 16 or via Twitter @JaneBeathard.