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Accused baby beater denied new attorney

Cary Ashby • Oct 24, 2012 at 3:20 PM

A rural Norwalk man accused of brutally beating an infant boy had wanted a new attorney.

Christoffer M. Mills, 30, of 309 Edwards Road, was opposed to the perceived "friendly relationship" between his attorney, John Allton, and Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler.

Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway told Mills it's not unusual for attorneys in such a small community to be friends outside of the courtroom, but a "friendly relationship" between Allton and Leffler wasn't the basis for getting new legal counsel.

"Mr. Allton fights vigorously for his clients," said the judge, who called Allton "one of the most respected attorneys" available to be appointed a defense attorney for criminal defendants.

Conway encouraged Mills to communicate with Allton about his case. Allton said his client's family is "resistant to a plea."

"They won't talk to me," the attorney added.

Conway then told Mills his relatives should be open to speaking to his attorney since they may have information that could be the basis for a defense. The judge also said 90 percent of the criminal cases in the county are resolved with a plea deal and told Mills if he goes to trial, he could face worse consequences.

Monday was the last day Leffler expected to have Mills enter a guilty plea. Leffler said he'd been discussing the matter with Alltop and recommended the court give Mills another two weeks to possibly agree to a plea deal.

If Mills doesn't enter a guilty plea by Nov. 5, he will go to trial Jan. 29 on two counts of felonious assault and one charge of endangering children. If convicted, Mills could face as much as 16 years in prison.

"If this goes (to trial), it could go four days," Leffler said.

Mills was living with the victim's mother when the abuse allegations came to light.

In late July, the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS), through the county prosecutor's office alleged a 9-month-old boy was believed to be abused and neglected. Juvenile court records indicate the child was brought to Fisher-Titus Medical Center with broken bones July 19 and three days later, came back with "symptoms of injury."

The boy was transported to Akron Children's Hospital, where Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard interviewed Mills. Doctors determined the infant sustained various rib fractures, a tibia "with past and present fractures" and a broken wrist, according to court documents. Authorities determined there were three beating instances within two months.

The victim remains in the temporary custody of HCDJFS and is in foster care. His parents have been granted supervised but separate visitation.

Mills, who was at first "deceitful," eventually admitted to losing his temper with the infant and injured him, Howard said earlier. The sheriff also has said the suspect told him "the child paid the price" for his temper.

A further disposition hearing in Huron County Juvenile Court will be held in February.

Mills must post a $100,000 bond before being released from the Huron County Jail. If he posts bail, he is prohibited from having any association with any child under the age of 18.

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