Court decisions raise concerns

September 2, 2014

What’s with people who either knowingly or through blatant stupidity inflict pain and injury to innocents that ostensibly did nothing to deserve what occurred to them?

Two stories last week highlighted incomprehensible cruelty to an infant and two golden retriever dogs.

Details of these two unrelated events are bad enough, but what I find most exasperating are elements put forth in the disposition of these cases.

First, there is Bobby Sammons, a 23-year-old father of a 1-year-old daughter, who pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of children, simple assault and reckless endangerment, and received a 2- to 5-year prison sentence. These charges stem from the fact his daughter had sustained at least 20 fractures, some dating to when she was just a few days old, according to doctors.

At his plea and sentencing hearing, Sammons reiterated his claim the fractured femur, which sent his then-2-month-old daughter to the hospital, was the result of him accidently pushing his knee into her while reaching across her body to grab a diaper. This was the second version of events Sammons gave to police. In the first, he said he was in another room when he heard his daughter begin to cry. He said he thought one of the family’s large dogs jumped on her, causing the injury.

Sammons said he never got angry with the child, but said he may have been irresponsible in leaving her alone with the dogs.

Even more incredible than what Sammons offered as explanations for the injuries was when Judge Farley Toothman asked if the commonwealth’s plea offer included any custody or visitation restrictions regarding the child.

Assistant District Attorney Brianna Vanatta said it did not. “The commonwealth has repeatedly attempted to impose restrictions on visitation and has been unsuccessful,” she said. “We attempted to enforce a no-contact provision, and we have been unsuccessful.”

My answer would have been there will be no visitation, and custody will be relinquished.

I should mention the baby’s mother, Ashley Cordwell, 19, faces charges of endangering the welfare of her child and reckless endangerment.

It also was brought out that Toothman inexplicably gave permission for visitation with the parents at least twice monthly. Two months later, it was increased to unsupervised visits for Cordwell, one day per week for two hours in her home. This was later increased to five unsupervised visits per week.

Meanwhile, the doctors at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., classified the injuries to the infant as “ongoing, nonaccidental trauma.”

How, in all good conscience, should visitation even be considered, let alone reunification?

Someone does not agree to a lengthy prison sentence if he believes his dogs caused these injuries.

And speaking of dogs, I was pleased to learn William Wilkinson of Spraggs was ordered to relinquish ownership of two golden retrievers he tied to the back of his vehicle and then dragged along a road in Wayne Township.

That’s the good news; not that he dragged his dogs but that he will never see them again. The bad news is that the charges against Wilkinson were reduced, allowing him to enter a program for first-time offenders and enabling him to continue to possess a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

What were these people thinking when they did what they did? The answer is obvious. They weren’t thinking at all.

Jon Stevens is the Greene County bureau chief. He can be reached at



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