BATAVIA, Ohio - Abuser or loving father?
Those were the differing portraits painted of an Amelia man in an emotional hearing in a Clermont County courtroom Monday.
John Kelley had been convicted of child endangering and felonious assault on the 9-year-old boy he adopted. The boy had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had lived in eight different homes until the Kelleys took him in.
The charges involved paddling the boy and making him hold a humiliating sign at the Amelia Kroger that said: "I pee on my family if I don't get my way."
A crowded courtroom heard Kelley say he disciplined the child out of love.
"I love my son," Kelley said. "Hardest thing I ever had to do was sign away my boy. But he's 10 years old now, so I had to do that so he could move along and hopefully be placed with a family that's capable of helping him where I failed."
Kelley's wife and sons came to his defense.
"I pray you see John as a man who loves his son very much and is terribly heartbroken over this whole situation," Angie Kelley said. "He is not a man who deserves to go to prison."
His son, Andy Kelley, said: "I believe our community is best served with him out of jail where he can and will continue to be an asset to the community."
When Kelley and his wife couldn't stop the boy from urinating on the carpet and furniture and throwing tantrums, Kelley resorted to using a belt and a paddle to beat the boy on his buttocks and the back of his waist and thighs, causing severe bruising, the prosecutor said.
"You could see the physical bruises below Michael's shorts," a staffer from Children's Protective Services said. "Michael was asked, 'Do you have any other injuries?'
"He said, 'Yes, I do.'
"Michael pulled down his pants and underwear. His buttocks was completely covered in various stages and colors of bruising."
Judge Jerry McBride sentenced Kelley to three years in prison and three years of probation to follow.