Christopher Leslie, 31, stood emotionless as Judge Scott Smith sentenced him to 25 years, serving the first 10 in prison and the remainder on probation. In addition to the sentence, Leslie must pay a $1,000 fine, undergo a psychiatric evaluation and take a parenting class before anyone under the age of 18 resides with him.
Leslie was on trial in March for locking a 7-year-old boy in a wooden box as a form of punishment. His wife, Heather Leslie, also was on trial but was found not guilty. Heather Leslie was in court Tuesday and said that she would stand by her husband. She told reporters she didn't think the sentence was fair.
"I love him, it was a very difficult situation," she said.
Meanwhile Judge Smith denied a request for Leslie to be sentenced under the First Offender Act.
"First offender is afforded to people who accept responsibility for their actions. and I do not find that to be the case in this circumstance," Smith told Leslie and his attorney.
Smith expressed his feelings on the case. Here are his comments in their entirety:
"Some of the facts that came out during the course of this trial made the situation more troubling than it was before this case was tried. Oftentimes in cases in which someone is harmed, it's done so out of a sense of simple mindlessness by someone who is not educated [and] someone who is not responsible ... someone who does not know better, even at some point, than to do some of the things they have done. But in this case, this is not the situation. Mr. Leslie is highly intelligent and seemingly should be a responsible person based upon [the psychologist] Dr. Moon's testimony concerning his evaluation, which makes this that more troubling. And I echo what [Assistant District Attorney] Ms. [Sherry] Faulk says, it is somewhat ridiculous to attempt to say that because the authorities didn't come out and issue a blandishing order that says 'Thou shall not put their child in a wooden box it's somehow makes this okay.'
"You know there are certain things as human beings, and especially as parents, that we should know as a matter of course. Number one, we don't put our child's hands into a fire because it will burn it and we know that without having to be told that by someone. We should know that certain acts that we do to our own child could harm them without having to have the authorities tell us that. We do not live our lives [so] that the government should have to follow you home every night to tell you what you should and should not do. Quite frankly, to sit here and say that because DFACS [Department of Family and Children Services], teachers, or police officers didn't come out and wave a flag in front of Mr. Leslie telling him that his actions were out of line, does not in anyway excuse his responsibility as a parent.
"Mr. Leslie you may not realize this, but in the state of Georgia I couldn't put you in a box like that. I couldn't put you in a similar situated, confined area in the dark, because the court and authorities in this state require that you have so much feet of space and that you have so much light per square inch in your cell. For me to do so in a like fashion of what you did to your child, would be called cruel and unusual punishment because it is inhumane. What you did to your child was inhumane. We do not treat people like that, let alone a person who relies on you for everything in their life. A child relies on you not only for food, shelter and clothing, but for approval and for security, love and protection, and you violated every single responsibility that you had as this child's parent. I do not know the extent to this child's harm but pursuant to what was testified to it appears that this child is going to need counseling for years. Diagnosis that was given by one of the experts at trial was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To have that happen at the hands of the person who is primarily responsible for giving love and security to this person is incomprehensible to this court. For someone to stand here and think that it is not something that caused this child harm makes no difference to this child whether this was a first-degree case or a second-degree case. The harm is done and I don't know that it will ever be reversed. This is one of the most troubling cases I've ever sat through. It's troubling from the standpoint that some people, including yourself, seem to think this is all right or that it was justified and it is not in any way a justifiable act for anyone to do, let alone a parent to do to a child."