Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks said Thursday if a suspected terrorist were forced to maintain a pushup for a period of time with a flame below his torso, “somehow that would be a national disgrace.”
She then noted that this “torture” was exactly what Nicholas Thornton inflicted on his then-3-year-old stepdaughter.
Thornton, 22, of Oregon was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison after pleading guilty last month to one count of child endangering. Judge Franks said that because of the nature of the case and evidence of likely even more abuse, she would impose the maximum prison term.
“Every day, she talks about this. … This little girl has been marked forever,” Judge Franks said of the girl, now 4. “Maybe the scars will go away, but no one will know what pain remains inside.”
Thornton was arrested in March after the victim’s step-grandmother noticed burns on her body and contacted authorities. He was indicted on two alternate counts of child endangering.
Judge Franks recounted the facts of the case before sentencing, saying that the incident apparently began when the young girl wet her pants.
The judge noted that Thornton initially forced her to change into a diaper, saying, “if she wanted to be a baby, she could wear diapers.” He then forced her into a pushup position and told her to hold herself up off the floor.
“He lit a lighter underneath her that the victim blew out twice,” Judge Franks said of the incident. “The victim’s arms began to shake and she began to cry.”
The youngster then fell on the lighter, the judge recounted. And to show her how hot the lighter was, Thornton then proceeded to burn her several times.
“She’s got a severe bruise on her chin, bruises on her legs, burns on her torso and limbs, and hair that was pulled out of her head. That was you punishing her,” Judge Franks said. “Now you stand before this court to be punished and what do you say? ‘I don’t want to go to prison, I want help.’ This little girl cried for help too.”
Judge Franks praised the victim’s step-grandmother, who was in court, for calling authorities when she saw the injuries. During a statement to the court, the step-grandmother asked that Thornton receive no leniency.
“It isn’t just a one-time incident. The pictures tell the story,” she said. “And I would just ask that the court show him as much mercy as he showed her. There was no mercy.”
Attorney Jeffrey Goldstein said his client understood how terrible his actions were, but asked that instead of prison, he be given assistance for the mental health issues that he has but for which he never has been treated.
Thornton apologized for his actions and offered no excuses for his actions. He acknowledged that there are no amends he could offer.
“The best I can do for the crime I committed is to ask for more than I’m worth in [the family’s] eyes, I can ask for forgiveness,” he said. “You can send me to prison. She’s still going to have the scars. That’s on me.”
The victim’s mother, Maria Thornton, was not in court Thursday. The judge noted that after police were involved, the victim said her “mommy told her not to tell anyone.”
The Lucas County grand jury declined to indict Mrs. Thornton on child endangering charges.
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