Judge Jason Deal said a statement by defense attorney David Hoffer was in one respect an insightful way to explain how his client, Joshua Busby, was awaiting sentencing for abusing an 11-week-old infant.
“I think Mr. Hoffer in his opening talked abut the institutional forces in your life, and that this case was about imperfect love and the poverty of your actions,” Deal said. “I wrote that down because I thought that was an eloquent way to talk about some of these things.”
But there was little else to redeem Busby, charged with abusing an 11-week-old infant. The 24-year-old was sentenced to 30 years in prison and 30 years’ probation on Wednesday in Hall County Superior Court for three counts of aggravated assault and one count of cruelty to a child in the first degree.
Daphne Carder, 23, who pleaded guilty to one count of cruelty to a child and testified for the state, was also sentenced to seven years in prison and three years’ probation, for neglect stemming from injuries to the baby.
Assistant District Attorney Hugh Hamilton, who said the state’s plea offer to Busby was a 15-year prison term and 15 years’ probation, said the defendant had not accepted responsibility for the child’s serious and visible injuries at the sentencing hearing.
“It’s also interesting to note, your honor, that his one apology was for ‘Letting it go this far,’ not for beating the child,” Hamilton said.
Deal, who said the trial had been “a disturbing case to hear the facts of,” agreed with the state.
“Other than the injuries to the child, the most damning thing for you is that you never accepted responsibility,” he said.
“You should have just manned up and said, ‘This is what happened,’” Deal added.
He wasn’t convinced by Busby’s words during the investigation, which included attributing the injuries to an 18-month-old, or during the trial, which ended May 8 in a guilty verdict. He said drug abuse was not only an inadequate excuse, but an aggravating factor.
“There’s a big difference between people who are hurting themselves because of drugs or people who are hurting other people,” Deal said.
Drug addiction was an often-cited factor in the crime for both defendants, and the jury had strong words for Carder in the verdict.
“We the jury cannot ignore the culpability of Daphne Carder in the extreme injuries inflicted on (the child) while in her care,” read the note, signed by the foreman. “We find her excuse of being under the influence of drugs to be weak and unbelievable given the severity of the injuries ... and the extreme force needed to cause these injuries.”
And Deal said he agreed.
“There’s no excuse for your conduct ... for when your child looked like that and you didn’t do anything. That really was not convincing to me, that somehow you were a victim in this,” he said. “Your responsibility as a mother was to that child and not to (Busby).”
Carder’s attorney asked that she be sentenced as a first offender, and said she had been steadily increasing contact with her children, who were taken from her custody.
As she was escorted from the courtroom for detention at the Hall County Jail, she looked back and asked tearful friends and family to “kiss my babies.”
Both Busby and Carder were indicted in June last year, and Deal said the state’s decision to drop several charges against Carder was understandable in a case that could easily have been bogged down in passing the buck.
“There’s lots of shame and blame to go around,” he said