Dad gets plea deal in case of boy in basement

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — Financial woes and the need to move on with life prompted a father accused of abusing his 12-year-old son and isolating the boy in the family’s basement for nearly two weeks to accept a misdemeanor plea deal Tuesday, according to the man and his attorneys.

Charlie Bothuell IV pleaded guilty Tuesday to fourth-degree child abuse before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Van Houten, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. He was sentenced to 18 months probation and anger management classes.

He was ordered to have no contact with his son, now 14-year-old Charlie Bothuell V. The father also must “follow all terms” set by the court, including costs and restitution to be determined at a later date. His record will be eligible to be expunged in five years, according to his attorneys.

The surprise plea deal came exactly two weeks after Bothuell IV declared his intent to take his case to trial.

“I’ve turned the deals down,” Charlie Bothuell IV told The Detroit News prior to a Jan. 5 hearing. “Because I’m not guilty.”

But the man’s draining finances ultimately forced a deal, Bothuell IV told The News Tuesday.

“I had no more money left to fight with, and I wouldn’t have been able to change that in time for trial,” Bothuell IV said. “This process broke my family and my finances. It’s time for me to move forward and begin rebuilding my life.”

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said the deal was reached with Charlie Bothuell V in mind.

“The prosecution felt that this was a good resolution of the case and it was appropriate under the facts,” spokeswoman Maria Miller said. “It allows the victim in the case to move on with his life and hopefully put the past behind him.”

Two attorneys for Bothuell IV told The News that their client agreed to the deal to spare his son more time on the witness stand.

“The main factor is we felt that the prosecution had been using little Charlie as a pawn, as a puppet,” attorney Shawn Patrick Smith said. “There was just wasn’t any room for allowing them to put Charlie on the stand, having him suffer through that again.”

The fourth-degree misdemeanor deal reflected a weak prosecution case, Smith said.

“We took a man who was looking at spending life at prison and showed everybody that it was one big lie and now it’s down to the lowest misdemeanor that we can get,” he said. “That pretty much says it all. You don’t have to say anything more about the strength of their case.”

Smith also echoed his client’s concerns about finances.

“They bankrupted the guy,” Smith said. “He’s got no place the live. His family’s got no money left.”

Another defense attorney, Farris Haddad, said their client’s dwindling resources were no match for the prosecution.

“You’re fighting the whole government at that point, with all their vast resources,” Haddad said. “It takes a lot.”

Both attorneys said Bothuell IV remains hopeful for an eventual reunion with his son, despite the judge’s order Tuesday to have no contact with the boy.

“That’ll continue through the probation,” Smith said of the order. “We can ask to modify that, or the son can ask to modify. When his son wants to come back, (Bothuell IV) will be there with open arms.”

Bothuell IV faced a second-degree child abuse charge in the case, stemming from his son Charlie Bothuell V’s disappearance from the family’s home. The boy, then 12, was found June 25, 2014, in their basement after an 11-day search.

A judge earlier this year dropped torture charges against the boy’s father and stepmother. The pair previously faced life in prison.

Stepmother Monique Dillard-Bothuell accepted a misdemeanor plea deal involving no jail time. The deal includes wiping her record after six months if she stays out of trouble.

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