Plea deal saves family of abuse victim second trial

by: Linda Stouffer Updated:

Sophia McGill struggles with permanent brain damage from an incident prosecutors blame on abuse from her mother's former boyfriend.

JASPER, Ga. - Sophia McGill is 6 years old. Her smile is bright and she's quick to give a hug. But she struggles with permanent brain damage from an incident prosecutors blame on abuse from her mother's former boyfriend.

Monday, in a Jasper courtroom, Gerald Marcus Brantley accepted an arranged guilty plea on a felony charge of cruelty to children.

"It's just a shame that somebody could do that do a little 14 month old baby that couldn't defend itself," Sophia's grandmother, Patty McGill, told Judge Brenda Weaver.

Sophia was rushed to the hospital in 2007, unconscious, with broken ribs and severe head trauma.

Brantley was charged with cruelty to children and other charges, and went to trial in 2010. The trial ended in a mistrial.

Later that same year, the family faced tragedy again when the child's mother was killed in a car accident.
Her biological father also had a debilitating stroke that left him in a wheelchair.

Monday's guilty plea avoids a second trial.

Once he accepted the guilty plea, Brantley was immediately sentenced to 12 years probation, which could terminate in 8 years if he follows the restrictions of his probation.

He is also eligible for sentencing under Georgia's first offender status, which means it will not show up as a felony conviction after the successful completion of his sentence.

Channel 2's Linda Stouffer asked the prosecutor if this is justice for Sophia.

Assistance District Attorney Scott Poole said it's a complicated case, but, "under the circumstances I think this is the best possible outcome."

The little girl's family agreed to the plea deal, but they tell Stouffer it's painful.

"He can go on with the rest of his life, but she'll never be the same. She'll never be a normal child. She can't," Gaye Quinton, Sophia's other grandmother said.

"She's lost a lot because of this. She doesn't have the same chances as a normal child would have," Shawn McGill, Sophia's father, told Stouffer.

Stouffer also tried to speak with Brantley and his attorney. His attorney told Stouffer they did not want to comment.

As part of the plea, Brantley was also ordered to serve at least 120 hours of community service, pay $1,000 fine and reimburse the family for $1,332 in medical costs.

Sophia McGill is a relative of a WSB-TV employee.

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