Attorneys of Habersham Co. couple say children fabricated abuse

Date: 2015-05-20

By Valerie Hoff

HABERSHAM COUNTY, Ga. -- Defense attorneys are painting a vastly different picture of what happened to four adopted children in the home of former Mt. Airy Police chief Richard Burton.

The children, who now range in age from 13 to 19, were removed the home of Burton and his wife Cheryle in 2012 after telling authorities they had been confined to a bedroom, beaten and underfed for seven years.

Burton was arrested and charged with child molestation. Both he and his wife were indicted on 28 counts of child cruelty.

Monday, they pleaded guilty to one count of second degree child cruelty for failing to feed the children proper nutrition and were sentenced to 25 consecutive weekends in jail, a sentence many in Clarkesville complained was too lenient.

But defense attorneys for the couple deny any abuse took place, including molestation.

"Just because someone is charged with something doesn't mean they did it, and doesn't mean the state could prove it," said Chief Public Defender Drew Powell, who represented Richard Burton.

The attorneys showed 11Alive photos of the four children on vacation at the beach and trick or treating on Halloween to refute claims the children were kept confined in the house and locked in a bedroom.

They deny the four were beaten with a stick. "They had some spankings on their rear end. They were never struck in the head as one of the children alleged," said Powell.

The Burtons did plead guilty to four counts of second degree child cruelty.

"What they've admitted to is negligently failing to provide proper nutrition to the children to the point where it affected the children's health," said Powell.

Elizabeth Pendleton, who represents Cheryle Burton, said the children were troubled due to psychological issues stemming from their treatment by their birth mother before they were taken from here.

"We have uncovered a very traumatic past for these children; they experienced horrible things as young children," she said.


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