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Father who hit son faces court-ordered therapy

"A 40-year-old Oak Harbor man who beat his 10-year-old son and bruised his face will escape prosecution on assault charges by complying with court-ordered therapy.At a court hearing Oct. 27, James Chambers' attorney said that Chambers is very ill and asked for the hearing to be continued for a year. The attorney also said Chambers is in the process of adopting a special-needs child and that the conviction for child assault would jeopardize the adoption.Chambers was charged with two counts of third-degree child assault in Island County Superior Court July 25. Each charge carries a standard sentence range of three to eight months in jail.Under the unusual courtroom agreement, Chambers admits that the police report was accurate and agrees to participate in counseling, therapy and possibly other programs coordinated through the Department of Social and Health Services for at least a year.The next hearing is set for Oct. 26, 2001. Under the agreement, the charges against Chambers will be dropped at that point if the judge finds he has complied with the conditions.Deputy Prosecutor Mike Henegen said he opted for the agreement over prosecuting Chambers for two main reasons: First, Henegen said he brought a similar case to trial several weeks ago and the jury found the defendant not guilty, even though there was strong evidence against him. The father of a boy admitted to hitting his son five times with a belt, Henegen said, and the police had photographs that clearly showed five bruises on the boy's thighs.Essentially the jury said it is OK to hit kids with belts, Henegen said. I was concerned that I was unlikely to get a conviction in the Chambers case.Also, Henegen said that Chambers immediately sought help, including counseling through DSHS, and was very cooperative after police became involved in the case.If Chambers doesn't comply with the agreement, Henegen said Chambers will be prosecuted before a judge instead of a jury.According to the police report written by Oak Harbor Police Officer Mike Clements, a school district bus driver noticed that the boy had a large bruise over the left side of his face when he came on the bus. After some coaxing, the boy said that his father, Chambers, had hit him for lying.In an interview with Clements at an elementary school, the boy said Chambers had hit him before and also hits his two younger brothers. Clements photographed other bruises on the boy which the boy said also resulted from his father hitting him. "

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