A Labette County judge has sentenced an Edna man to probation rather than prison for abuse of a child.
Michael C. Mason, born in 1972, was charged in Labette County District Court with abuse of a child, a mid-level felony, and aggravated battery, a lower-level felony. The complaint alleges that the incidents occurred Aug. 28-29, 2018.
Mason pleaded no contest to abuse of a child. The aggravated battery charge was dismissed as part of the plea.
Labette County Attorney Stephen Jones said on Aug. 29, 2018, the child was at Edna Grade School with bruising, which was reported to the Labette County Sheriff’s Office. The child had marks on his back, neck and leg. A sibling of the child told a detective that he saw Mason spank the child with a belt a couple of times. In addition, Mason pushed the child to the ground, choked him and pushed the child’s head through a wall, Jones said.
Mason’s attorney, Amy Ross, asked for a departure from the required prison term for her client. Mason has a criminal history score of D, which means he faces prison on the charge. In the plea, Ross and Jones agreed to recommend probation.
On Wednesday, Mason testified in support of his plea for probation. He said since the case was filed he’s attended therapy sessions and completed the Batterer’s Intervention Program through Spring River Mental Health and Wellness. He also completed a course for parents. The courses helped him learn coping skills. The batterer’s program helped him address his faults and problems and changed how he reacted to situations to avoid being abusive in the future. The parenting class was illuminating, he said. “It explained a lot of things to me that I didn’t know and didn’t understand,” he said.
Mason said he formerly worked at Bagcraft in Baxter Springs. He had to quit and is seeking medical disability after he had an accident at work and injured his hand. He found out he’d had other health conditions as well.
Mason read a short statement while on the witness stand. He said he has faults and apologized for any physical or emotional hurt and harm he caused.
“I ask forgiveness for all my wrongdoings,” he said.
He wants to continue with counseling and be a better parent. He said he will continue to learn from his mistakes.
“I will accept any consequences for my actions,” he said. “I feel like I can learn from this and will be stronger than I ever was.”
He was asked what would be different in parenting now versus three years ago. Mason said he would use communication rather than just taking action. He hadn’t communicated with his children much before.
Ross said she showed enough reason that her client could get probation rather than prison. He’d gone through counseling and had the ability to contact counselors if need be in the future. She added that the prosecution jointly recommended probation.
District Judge Steve A. Stockard said he was dismayed when he read Mason’s version of the crime in the pre-sentencing report. He said Mason failed to express remorse or accept responsibility for the crime. Abuse of a child requires a prison term for a person with Mason’s record unless compelling reasons allow a judge to decide otherwise.
Stockard said he believed Ross presented a good case for probation and, to Mason’s credit, he appeared sorrowful and remorseful in his statement and testimony at sentencing. He accepted responsibility for his faults, though he failed to accept responsibility for the crime.
“I believe you are sorrowful for what this has done for your life and your family,” Stockard said. He acknowledged that Mason had gone through counseling and that completing the intervention program is an accomplishment because of the arduous process involved.
Still, abuse of a child is a serious crime and Stockard said he was shocked to find similar crimes in Mason’s criminal history as recent as 2017 in Utah. He has a child abuse conviction as well as convictions for domestic violence in the presence of a child and aggravated assault.
Stockard granted the request for probation over prison. He sentenced Mason to 55 months in prison and suspended that term and placed him on probation for 36 months through community corrections. He said the prison term should serve as a motivator for Mason to change his life. Stockard added that his greatest fear is that Mason has not learned his lesson and others could be impacted by his behavior in the future. But he said he would take Mason at his word that he has changed his life.
Stockard also ordered Mason to serve 60 days in jail because of the seriousness of the crime. Mason will report to jail on June 1.
In other cases:
— Zachary R. Swafford, 25, 2411 Washington, pleaded no contest to distribution of marijuana, a level four drug felony. On Feb. 3, 2020, Parsons police responded to a domestic disturbance in the 1100 block of Crawford. Police found 7.58 grams of a substance that tested positive for the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, according to Labette County Attorney Stephen Jones. A Parsons police release on the arrest noted police found nearly a pound of marijuana. Sentencing will be June 28.
— Chadwick B. Wry, 33, of Parsons received a controlling term of 37 months in prison for violating the Kansas Offender Registration Act (he didn’t file as a sex offender as required) and possession of methamphetamine. The prison term was suspended and Wry received probation for two years through community corrections. He will have to complete 40 hours of community service as well.