Wal-Mart Child Slapper Sentenced
Many of us heard about the man who slapped another Wal-Mart customer's child repeatedly several months ago. The story made the rounds through many news and media outlets, through blogs, and the internet rumor mill at large. The idea of a man who would repeatedly strike another person's child, whatever the provocation, was simply too shocking not to attract a great deal of attention. It also attracted a puzzling trickle of support and sympathy from people who apparently understood the inclination to react in such an unexpected fashion.
Well, Roger Stephens - that sixty-one year old man who stole headlines and dominated conversations in August of 2009, has finally been sentenced for his appalling outburst.
Stephens did not testify at the trial, which was held without a jury by agreement between both the prosecution and defense. Instead Stephens offered an apology to the family of the two year old whom he publically slapped.
Jeff Sliz, Stephens’s defense attorney, has stated that his client was "blind-sided" by all the media attention that his actions have received. He did not think at the time, or in the days following it as the story exploded all over the media, that it would become what it did.
"He's absolutely amazed this incident took on such Goliath proportions," Sliz said. "He never in his wildest imagination believed it would mushroom into this."
Perhaps Stephens' disbelief seems strange remembering the story. The incident as the mother recalled it to police back in August involved Stephens approaching the woman while she shopped with her daughter at Wal-Mart and threatening her and the two year old girl, saying, "If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you."
A few moments after making that warning, he took the girl and slapped her repeatedly across the face. Stephens slapped the girl four or five times in total, according to the police report.
But Sliz explained his client's behavior as being "the ultimate knee-jerk reaction."
"He put his hands on a child when he clearly shouldn't have, and he realizes that," the attorney said.
Stephens was sentenced to one year in jail for what he did. He will be given credit for the four months he has already served against that sentence. Six months into his sentence - so on less than two months, taking into account the time he has already served - Stephens will become eligible to move to house arrest. Stephens' attorney has voiced some concern as to whether or the retired Georgia Power employee will be able to take advantage of that, considering the $300 a month fee accompanying the house arrest option. He worries that his client will have difficulty paying it.
In either event, it seems that Stephens will have some time to consider the inappropriateness of his actions both in jail, and perhaps in the future from his own home. Whether or not this will satisfy the internet and media interest in this story remains to be seen.