COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Rather than toss Andre Curry into the slammer for his now notorious Facebook blunder, a Cook County judge gave the young father a stern talking-to and sentenced him to probation.
In December 2011, Curry posted a photo on Facebook of his 22-month-old daughter. Her wrists, ankles and mouth were bound with blue painters tape. The photo included the message, "This is wut happens wen my baby hits me back. ; )."
The post went viral, and Curry, 22, was charged with aggravated domestic battery.
"In your rush to show everyone how how funny you were, you used a 22-month-old child ... as a helpless prop," Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood said during Curry's sentencing Friday. "This was not funny."
Found guilty by Flood on two counts of battery in November, Curry could have been sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison for the felony aggravated domestic battery for strangling the child.
But Flood overturned the more serious conviction and sentenced Curry to 18 months.
Curry's attorney, Sam Adam Jr., filed a motion arguing that the conviction be overturned.
During a Monday hearing, Adam said that his client did not intend to impede the child's breathing and asked that the judge overturn the conviction. Witnesses testified during Curry's trial that his daughter had no apparent injuries.
But prosecutors maintained 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.
Flood reversed his own verdict Friday.
"I do not believe ... that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to strangle the victim," Flood said.
While calling judges decision to throw out the conviction "rare," Adams assumed some responsibility.
"Blame me; I didn't make (the case) clear enough the first time," he said. "We've been blessed to have the judge we had. He did the right thing."
Flood's finding of guilty in the lesser charge, also for domestic battery, stood. Because Curry has no criminal record, the offense constitutes a misdemeanor.
After losing his home, his job and being separated from his daughter by court order for the last year, the 18 months probation Curry received as punishment came as a relief.
"For my actions, I deserve (that)," he said standing in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse with his daughter's mother, Brandi Philips, who has insisted since the onset of Curry's legal trouble that he is a good father.
"My father wasn't in my life; (Curry's) father wasn't a part of his life," said Philips. "(Curry) is doing the opposite of what he was raised with."
Curry's pastor, Torrey Barrett, an advocated for domestic violence prevention, is also of the belief that the young father and his near-catastrophic mistake with social media could be a powerful deterrent for other young men.
He has hired Curry to work part-time as a counselor at the K.L.E.O. Community Family Life Center in Washington Park.
With the court's restriction on contact with his daughter lifted, Curry is now free to go back to being he full time father.
"I am go to pick her up, throw her in to the air, catch her and spin her around," he said.