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Guilty plea to child abuse will stand

March 27th, 2015 by WCBC Radio

The Cumberland Times News reports that the guilty plea to first-degree child abuse by a 35-year-old Barton man will stand, Circuit Judge Gary G. Leasure ruled Friday in Allegany County Circuit Court. Chad Custer had asked the judge to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea Feb. 18, the same day Leasure allowed Custer to discharge his then attorney, Trent Thomas of Cumberland. “The court … is satisfied that the defendant’s plea was made freely and voluntarily,” Leasure said. Custer told Leasure last month that he believed he was “misled as to what I was pleading guilty to.” Custer is alleged to have assaulted his girlfriend’s infant daughter. Medical authorities have said the child suffered from shaken baby syndrome. The two-hour hearing Friday consisted of legal arguments over whether Custer had a clear understanding of the crime he was charged with and possible defenses when he entered his guilty plea. Leasure set sentencing for April 2 at 3 p.m. after Custer’s current and third attorney in the case, David Schram, said he only received notice of the hearing on the guilty plea and did not realize the judge was considering proceeding to sentencing. Custer faces up to 20 years in prison. “I am definitely happy with the decision today,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Jacqueline Brandlen. About 15 protesters outside the courtroom before the hearing included family members of the injured child with her mother, Allison Durst. Pink and white ribbons were strung on telephone poles with nearby signs stating “No excuses for child abuse” and many family members were wearing T-shirts with the words, “Justice for Danika” imprinted on them. The purpose ot the protest was to “show we have support of the community,” Durst said. Her daughter is now home from the hospital. “She’s getting there, not 100 percent yet,” Durst said. Custer remains in the Allegany County Detention center pending sentencing.

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