While Richard Scott Burton and his wife Cheryle avoided a criminal trial by striking a deal with prosecutors last month, they now face a civil trial in a lawsuit brought by the children they’re accused of abusing.
Initially Richard Burton, the former police chief in Mt. Airy, was looking at two counts of aggravated child molestation. His wife and he together faced 28 counts of first-degree cruelty to children.
The deal from the Habersham District Attorney’s office reduced all those charges down to a single count each of second degree cruelty to children. The Burton’s guilty pleas resulted in 50 days in jail (served weekends only), probation and a fine.
The deal and the sentence outraged many in Habersham County who voiced their dissatisfaction via letters and social media posts.
This week a lawsuit was filed against the Burtons on behalf of the children the couple admitted to neglecting.
The new civil complaint, filed Tuesday by the children’s legal guardians Fran and Ricky Chastain, claims the children were, “subjected to a protracted and constant course of physical, mental and emotional abuse and neglect, negligently, recklessly and intentionally inflicted…” during the years they lived with the Burtons.
Accusations in the Complaint against Richard and Cheryle Burton
a. Starving, under nourishing and withholding food from the Children as punishment or as a disciplinary tool;
b. Isolating the Children from contact with people outside the Defendants’ household and dramatically limiting contact with those in it;
c. Confining the Children to their one room and adjacent hallway except for brief periods during which the Children were required to perform chores;
d. Forcing the Children to all live in one bedroom while other children of the Defendants each had their own separate bedroom;
e. Locking the Children in their bedroom overnight and for other extended periods as punishment for minor offenses and to prevent the Children from having access to food overnight;
f. Failing to provide the Children with adequate medical attention and care and sexually abusing the Children.
Attorney Spencer Carr’s firm is representing the Chastain family in the suit, “You want to see good things come for the kids,” he says. “At the end of the day, we’re professionals just wanting to pick up where the justice system left off. The Carr Law Group, with our associate Jim Cox, has the litigation experience to be very successful in this case.”
The complaint claims “the children have suffered significant injuries in the nature of malnutrition, undernourishment, retarded physical growth, emotional disabilities and physical and mental harm.”
It asks a jury to award $5,000,000 to cover the abused children’s ongoing “physical, medical and emotional treatment” as well as $5,000,000 in punitive damages.
The Burton’s have 30 days to respond to the complaint.