• Mother added to child abuse registry leaves Georgia

    By: Nicole Carr

    Updated:

    COWETA COUNTY, Ga. - A Newnan mother has moved out of state after being added to the new state child abuse registry, her attorney says.

    Jennifer Cotton is accused of neglect following a February arrest, that took place after her toddler got a hold of her gun in a Newnan restaurant.

    Police said the 2-year-old boy reached into his mother’s purse, unzipped a pocket and pulled out her 9 mm handgun. A screw from the gun’s holster hit the boy’s 11-year-old sister, and injured her leg.

    “She made a mistake,” said Jason W. Swindle, Cotton’s attorney. “It was a mistake that could have cost somebody’s life, but it happened in half a second.”


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    Last week, Cotton took a plea deal, and was found guilty of misdemeanor reckless conduct for her purse placement in the restaurant, Swindle said. She was ordered to take a gun safety course and conduct “write-in” probation from her new home in Texas.

    Months earlier, a child services investigator looked into the incident, and Cotton received a letter informing her she was added to the child abuse registry.

    Cotton lost her appeal to the state.

    “For a mother who stays at home, only cares about raising her children, to be labeled a child abuser was too much for her to even stay in the state,” Swindle said.

    THE NEW REGISTRY BY THE NUMBERS

    According to records, roughly 6,000 Georgians were added to the registry between its July 2016 inception and May 2017.

    Data shows neglect allegations lead placement, with 8,776 allegations. Child endangerment allegations make up 1,755 placements.

    Physical and sex abuse allegation account for far fewer registry placements, with the latter netting 572 allegations.

    Individuals can account for several allegations.

    The registry is not accessible to the general public, but the government can pull it, as well as potential employers who are licensed in child care.

    Placement on the registry would also prevent someone from owning or operating a child care facility.

    Registry placement may be appealed for $150 fee, but placement can occur before any criminal court proceedings. The state investigation is separate from criminal proceedings.

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