Couple Accused of Abusing Adopted Son Plead to Reduced Charges

Couple Accused of Abusing Adopted Son Plead to Reduced Charges

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- A Roy couple accused of severely beating their adopted son, giving him rotten food and forcing him to live on a stairway landing, have pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Scott and Catherine Kanani Nelson, who already had lost their parental rights, pleaded guilty in 2nd District Court Wednesday to child-abuse charges that were reduced from second-degree felonies to third-degree. Sentencing was set for Jan. 12 before Judge W. Brent West.

"It's the difference between intentional and reckless," said defense attorney Gary Barr, who in the past has claimed inflated the case with leading questions to the children.

Authorities had said the 8-year-old Samoan boy was forced to live in his underwear on a concrete stairway landing or in a shed with no heat or bedding.

Charges were filed Feb. 17, and Scott Nelson, a Salt Lake County correctional officer, was put on paid administrative leave. He resigned a month later.

Barr also represented the Nelsons in 2nd District Juvenile Court where prosecutors successfully argued for the Nelson to lose their parental rights for both the 8-year old and his 2-year-old natural sister.

"These were people who tried to have children for a long time but couldn't," Barr said. "They spent a ton of money on the adoptions then they made some bad judgments" regarding discipline.

The juvenile-court judge considered granting custody to the Nelsons' parents, but decided the likely encounters with the Nelsons would be too traumatic.

The state Division of Child and Family Services took immediate custody. Proceedings regarding the children since then have been confidential.

The Nelsons' adoption of the boy and his sister, completed through an out-of-state private agency, was documented in April 2003 by the Discovery Health Channel series "Adoption Stories" and was aired several times. The episode was dropped from the broadcast schedule after the network learned of the abuse charges.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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