• Dennis McCaslin

Man posts $1500 bond and is released after giving four year-old a concussion

A Fort Smith mother is concerned about the safety of her, her child and others after a "man" who beat up her four-year-old child was released of a $15,000 legally sufficient bond on Tuesday afternoon.

Michael Lee Priest of Fort Smith, who has an amateur background as an MMA fighter, was arrested on Saturday and charged with a state felony Domestic Battery in the Second Degree Second offense for the attack on his now ex-fiance's son. He was released from the Sebastian County Detention Center at 5:55 p.m. on Monday after posting $1500 to satisfy the bond.

"They just let that monster out with barely any bond he’s on the streets again now and could hurt another baby," said the mother of victim. "The prosecutors office didn't show much concern for how dangerous this man is from the outset."

The mother said when Priest arrived home on Saturday, he asked her to make a fast food run to a nearby McDonalds. She said she has monitors in the house that feed directly to her phone and she said she was less that two driveways away from the house when she saw Priest beat her child on the feed.

"I turned around and went back immediately," said the mother. "He told the police that he only slapped my son once. The cops told him that didn't look like what happened on the video."

The four-year-old was seen by medical professionals and was diagnosed with a concussion. The mother said the child had several goose eggs on this head, including one the size of an avocado.

The charge of second degree battery isn't even correct, according to state statue. Arkansas Code 5-13-201 states "a person commits battery in the first degree when they knowingly causes serious physical injury to any person four years of age or younger under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."

"I was hoping they would upgrade it to First Degree Battery, which is really what it should be, before his court appearance on Thursday," said the mother, who was in tears. "I guess for the prosecutor it's just easier to go for the lesser charge so they can just work out a deal and give him a slap on thee wrist the way they did when he beat up his sister."4

The mother is talking about a Crawford County incident in 2018 when Priest was allowed to plea down from two counts of Felony Aggravated Assault on a Family member to a negotiated plea of guilty on two counts of Third Degree Domestic Battery. He was also arrested for Driving White Intoxicated during the same incident.

Priest caught 12 month sentence on the three guilty pleas but was given a suspended imposition of sentence, so he essentially walked away with no punishment.

The Sebastian County Prosecutors Office also has a reputation for making plea deals or not aggressively pursuing justice for some victims of domestic battery. There are dozens examples of the same type of "prosecution tactics" that allow abusers right back on the streets, sometimes with tragic results by repeat offenders.

Too often, the victims will either not cooperate with authorities, either because of fear, intimidation or misguided loyalties. And the cycle then continues.

"I just want justice for my son, who is just an innocent child," said the mother. "The man is dangerous and I don't want another child going through what happened to my son."

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