A Johnson City man will spend two months in jail over the next four years as part of his sentence for a drunken beating he inflicted on his young stepsons three years ago.
Shane Morton, 41, pleaded guilty to the charge earlier this year and spent much of Tuesday in a sentencing hearing in Washington County Criminal Court.
The incident happened Oct. 1, 2008, when Morton drank a fifth of vodka straight from the bottle on a night his wife was working and he was supposed to be caring for her two boys, ages 4 and 8 at the time. According to a lengthy court document filed before the sentencing hearing, Morton had been sober for several months leading up to his binge that night.
One of the boys was left bruised and with bloody scrapes and scratches on his face. The injuries included a bootprint on his back and a handprint on his side. Morton was originally charged with aggravated child abuse and sexual battery, but pleaded to a reduced charge. He has said that he doesn’t remember what he did that night after drinking the vodka.
The boys’ injuries were discovered after their mom, a nurse, arrived home from work. She immediately called 911 and Morton was arrested that night while her children were treated at the hospital.
Morton’s alcohol use began when he was just 14 years old and was a large cause of his first divorce, court records said. But according to the history in the court record, Morton was a “functioning alcoholic” and was able to maintain employment, and — according to testimony from family and friends — he successfully hid his drinking, even while on family vacations.
Morton had a strong show of support from friends and family at Tuesday’s hearing, but all who testified — even his first ex-wife — said the things they have learned about Morton don’t describe the man they know. Tina Morton, who was married to Morton for 11 years, testified that while alcohol was a problem in their marriage, she never saw it affect her ex-husband in such a way that caused him to be violent.
A longtime family friend said she was shocked to hear about Morton’s alcohol use, and Morton’s uncle, Coach Bob May, said “I don’t know that Shane Morton,” meaning the alcoholic who sneaked around to satisfy his addiction. May even went as far as saying he really didn’t believe Morton abused the children.
In his final ruling, Judge Robert Cupp ordered Morton to serve 10 years of alternative community corrections, a prison sentence served outside of prison. But Cupp told Morton he wanted him to remember what he had done, so he ordered him to serve two months in jail each year for the next four years. Morton will be allowed to be on work release so he can continue his employment as a cake decorator at Dairy Queen.
Beverly Hafen, the boys’ grandmother, said after the hearing that she wasn’t happy with Morton’s sentence and believed he should go to prison for the full eight years.