Folks in Judge John Allen's courtroom saw a heartrending scene Monday as a weeping man pleaded with Allen to let him see his young daughter this Christmas.
Thomas Lamont Jones did not get his wish: After Jones pleaded guilty to first-degree child cruelty, Allen sentenced him to five years in prison, with two to serve and the rest on probation.
Jones has been jailed since March 30, accused of burning an 8-year-old boy on the arm with a hot curling iron in retribution for the boy having burned Jones' daughter, then 2, with the same device.
That punishment was far disproportionate to the boy's offense, said Assistant District Attorney Douglas Breault: The little girl was only slightly injured. The boy fared much worse, sustaining "two long, large burns on his arm, second-degree burns. He still has a visible scar."
The incident happened March 28. At the time Jones was the live-in boyfriend of his daughter's mother and was baby-sitting the girl and three other children, including the 8-year-old boy whom Breault said Jones burned "intentionally, to teach him a lesson."
As he pleaded guilty Monday, Jones began to cry, saying he simply lost his composure when he saw his daughter's injury. "I'm so sorry," he said. "God knows I love them kids."
He begged Allen to send him home: "I want to see my daughter for Christmas," he pleaded. "Please let me go home. I can't take it in that jail anymore."
Evidence presented before his sentencing showed Jones has been hospitalized multiple times for mental illness and has suffered from a diminished mental capacity that required special instruction when he was in school. He also had been using illegal drugs before his arrest, as he acknowledged in a letter to Allen included in his case file. In that correspondence, Jones wrote that he was abused as a child.
Allen said Jones can get treatment for his condition in prison and from Columbus' New Horizons program when he's released.
"He can get the kind of help he needs," Allen said.