Child Abuse Legislation ‘Winston’s Law’
Gets Start In Legislature
Featured on My Brother’s Keeper, December 15, 2015
Alabama – District Attorney Randall Houston hopes that an early start in the effort to strengthen punishment in aggravated child abuse cases makes all the difference.
He recalls how it took three years for a bill to change the boating under the influence law to work its way through the Legislature. He pursued that bill after a series of fatal boating under the influence accidents occurred in his circuit.
“We hope Winston’s Law can make it through the House and Senate quickly this session and go on to the governor’s desk for his signature.” Houston, who represents Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties, said. “We have picked up strong support for the bill.”
Named for the now 5-year-old boy who is at the center of a high-profile Elmore County child abuse case, Winston’s Law would make aggravated child abuse cases where the victim is 6 years old or younger a Class A felony. Reserved for the most serious crimes in the state, Class A felonies have a punishment range of 10 to 99 years to life in prison.
Aggravated child abuse is now a Class B felony, with a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison.
The District Attorneys Association of Alabama and Child Protect have endorsed the bill. Rep. Paul Beckman, R- Prattville, and state Sen. Clyde Chambliss Jr., R- Prattville, are sponsoring the bill.
In September Winston was found unresponsive in the back of Scott Hicks’ vehicle in the parking lot of the Bay County, Fla., courthouse, where Hicks went to clear up some unrelated warrants.
After deputies found Winston in the vehicle, Hicks, 38, was charged with aggravated child abuse. He remains in the Bay County Jail. The investigation shows that the abuse occurred in Elmore County. His mother, Hallee McLeod, 29, was recently indicted by the Elmore County Grand Jury on charges of aggravated child abuse and chemical endangerment of a child. Hicks and McLeod, boyfriend and girlfriend, are both Wetumpka residents, Houston said
She remains in the Elmore County Jail under bonds totaling $300,000, jail records show. She could not be reached for comment and courthouse records show she doesn’t have an attorney. Houston said Hicks will face similar charges in Elmore County, when the charges against him in Florida adjudicated.
Hicks was a co-owner of Spa Rejuvenate which had locations in Prattville and Montgomery. McLeod was the manager of the Prattville location. The Alabama Board of Message Therapy suspended the business license for the Prattville location and entered a non-renewal order for the license at the Montgomery location after the couple’s arrest.
At the time Sheriff Bill Franklin called the physical abuse Winston went through “the worst I have seen.”
“It certainly is the worst I have seen, where the child lived,” said Houston, a veteran prosecutor.”
Winston is now with his father, Joey Crampton, and making a “remarkable” recovery.
“Winston is in a loving, supporting environment and from all signs is doing much better than any of us could have ever hoped,” Houston said. “He has several more medical procedures that he is facing, and he may well face emotional troubles given the horrific abuse he went through.
“But now he is doing very well, and for that we are all very thankful.”
If passed, Winston’s Law will not be in effect for his case, since McLeod and Hicks were charged before the law was enacted.
“If anything good can come out of a bad situation, it is ensuring that justice is for everyone going forward,” Crampton wrote on the Facebook page JusticeForWinston. “If we can have a law that protects people, humanity, children especially, that to me is what justice is about.”