WASHINGTON PARK — When some on social media labeled Andre Curry "a monster" for posting a photo on Facebook of his young daughter bound with blue painter's tape, a South Side pastor he had never met offered to help.
In December 2011, Curry posted a photo on Facebook of his 22-month-old daughter. Her wrists, ankles and mouth were bound with tape. The photo included the message, "This is wut happens wen my baby hits me back. ; )"
The image went viral, and Curry, 22, was charged with aggravated domestic battery.
Family members and the child's mother insisted that Curry, who had no previous criminal record, was a good father who made a stupid mistake. But Curry wound up behind bars.
With no hope of raising $10,000 to bond out of jail, he prayed for a sign. Soon after, Torrey Barrett of the K.L.E.O. Community Family Life Center in Washington Park showed up at Cook County Jail.
“He thought I was the sign he had prayed for,” said Barrett, pastor of Life Center Church of God in Christ, recalling the first time he spoke to Curry. “Andre just started crying; I knew this guy never meant his daughter any harm.”
Barrett collected hundreds of signatures asking the court to reduce Curry's bond. He started a website aimed at raising money for Curry's defense and helped enlist the services of celebrated attorney Sam Adam Jr.
When Curry was released on bail, Barrett invited him to stay at his home. Barrett said he also plans to offer Curry a job this year, when he hopes Curry's legal problems will be behind him.
In November, Curry was convicted on the aggravated domestic battery charge. He faces up to seven years in prison at his sentencing Thursday.
Curry's attorney argued that Curry cannot be guilty of felony battery because he did not intend to impede the child's breathing. Witnesses testified during Curry's trial that his daughter had no apparent injuries.
But prosecutors maintain that by covering her mouth with tape, Curry violated the strangulation statute, and that it doesn't make a difference whether the young father meant to cut off the girl's breathing.
"The defendant did so believing [it] to be hilarious," prosecutor Elizabeth Ciaccia said, adding that if Curry had intended to stop her breathing, "It would be an attempted murder."
Social media has propelled some to instant fame, but for Curry, the results have been far less desirable.
According to Barrett, producers from the "Dr. Phil" talk show called asking if Curry would be a guest. He declined, Barrett said, because the plan was to do a show about bad fathers.
But Barrett thinks Curry can help make other young people understand the dangers of social media by speaking out about his experience.
"It's an opportunity for Andre to become an educator to a population that thrives on social media and [show them] the severity of the consequence," he said.