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Plea stopped for man accused of hitting child

Cornelius Fortson was ready to plead guilty Thursday to throwing a lamp that hit a 4-year-old child, causing his brain to bleed.

Asking for a special legal status that would have removed the conviction from his record stopped the plea cold.

Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston III quickly told defense attorney Jose Guzman that he wouldn't give the 22-year-old first offender status. Those who get the status don't have their convictions reflect on their records, if they successfully complete their sentence and probation.

"Absolutely not," the judge said. "Mr. Guzman, they were in the presence of children. They knew the child was there."

First charged with cruelty to children, Fortson was to plead to aggravated assault for throwing the lamp on Nov. 15 that hit Tonte Upshaw. He was at Tanisha Davis' Cusseta Road home at the time and a play fight with girlfriend Diana Price, who was babysitting the child, escalated into a more serious argument, Assistant District Attorney Wayne Jernigan said.

He picked up a nearby lamp and threw it, missing Prince and Chico Burke and striking the child, Jernigan said. While seriously injured, the child is now recovered and his mother advocated for Fortson.

"He didn't mean to hit my son purposefully," Davis said. "He didn't didn't hurt my son intentionally. He's no threat to me now."

Guzman told the judge his client had been in jail for nine months before requesting first offender status. Johnston's denial means Fortson's case will go to a grand jury, which has the option to indict him. If indicted, it's expected the case will proceed to trial.

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