GRANITEVILLE, N.Y. (PIX11)—A Staten Island man who brutally beat his then-9 year old son, stripping him naked, burning his hands and then throwing him into a kitchen oven, will serve just four months in jail on weekends for the attack.
James Moss was facing seven years in prison, after pleading guilty to second degree assault, but instead was given a lenient sentence after the victim himself, now 11-years-old, asked the judge for mercy.
"I will fight so hard for my dad to live with me," Christopher Moss tearfully told Judge Robert J. Collini in Richmond County Supreme Court. The child has only been allowed to see his father on supervised visits for more than a year.
"He's not supposed to be in jail for days, months, or years," Christopher said.
The boy said of his nearly 6 foot, 3 inch father, who towers over the child at 270 pounds, "He made a big mistake, but really somewhere in his heart, he is funny, lovable, caring and a great father in the whole entire world."
Back on May 12, 2010, James Moss was taking care of his son at their home in the Graniteville section, while his wife, Erin, a nurse, was at work. The father confronted the boy, believing he had stolen $20 from his wallet. The Staten Island District Attorney, Daniel Donovan, said what followed was one of the most sadistic cases of child abuse he'd ever dealt with.
James Moss took his son to the basement and ripped off his clothes. Then he took the boy to the kitchen and used a spatula to beat him. He heated up two burners on the stove and held the boy's hands over the flames for two minutes.
Police said Moss punched his son in the face and then pushed him into the oven, threatening "I'm going to burn you alive!" The boy begged to be let out of the oven, which wasn't turned on, and then the father forced him, still naked, out the front door.
When Moss' wife got home from work, she took her son to the hospital, where he was treated for second and third degree burns.
On Friday in court, Moss' defense lawyer, Mark Fonte, told the judge his client has been attending "anger management" and parenting classes.
This followed the boy's emotional statement to the judge that he's "nothing" without his father and that "God will solve everything, if you make the right choice." Judge Collini then said to the child, "Christopher, can I ask you a question? Did anybody make you say these words?"
"No," Christopher Moss responded.
The judge followed up, "Are these the words you truly believe from your heart?"
The boy replied, "Yes".
The child's mother, Erin Moss, then rose to speak in her husband's defense. She said the two have been married for 24 years, with ups and downs like any other couple.
"We have two, beautiful children together. James is a hard-working, reliable, dedicated man who tried very hard to overcome a childhood that plagued him with bad experiences and abuse," she said. "I was the disciplinarian and he was the softie."
Erin Moss gave her husband credit for supporting her career aspirations, allowing her to graduate from nursing school.
"I could not have done it without him," Moss told the judge. "Taking care of the children and stepping up as Mister Mom, doing the household chores."
She also talked of coming home on the day her husband brutalized their son. "I was looking at a man I didn't recognize. I believe James snapped." The assault cost James Moss his job of 27 years and forced Erin Moss to work 2 ½ jobs to pay the family bills. She closed by saying, "The one thing I have learned from my son is forgiveness."
When James Moss was given his turn to speak, he emotionally told the judge, "As you can see, my son is a better man than me. I'm very sorry for what I did. I just want to be with my family."
Judge Collini responded, "This court feels compelled to temper justice with understanding and compassion, for the victim." He sentenced James Moss to four months of weekends in county jail, with five years of supervised probation. James Moss can't be reunited with his family at this time but will continue supervised visits with his son.
Outside court, Moss' 11 year old son was led away by his mother and a caseworker, wearing a dark baseball cap and sunglasses.
When PIX 11 asked Moss' defense attorney if the sentence was a slap on the wrist, he replied, "It's absolutely not a slap on the wrist! The judge took into consideration the wishes of the victim." As the judge pointed out, he--with his sentence--did not want to add to the trauma of a child who's already been severely traumatized.