Convicted SYF owners sentenced to maximum for child abuse - FOX10 News | WALA

Convicted SYF owners sentenced to maximum for child abuse

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SYF owner John Young SYF owner John Young
William Knott and Aleshia Moffett William Knott and Aleshia Moffett

A Mobile judge has handed down the maximum sentence for three people convicted of aggravated child abuse in connection with the Saving Youth Foundation.

The prosecutor said Wednesday sentencing follows the first felony convictions involving a church run residential facility for troubled teens in Alabama.

John Young, William Knott, and Aleshia Moffett have remained in jail sent their conviction last month.  

DHR shut down Saving Youth Foundations in 2015.  The three owners were later indicted on multiple charges of abuse.  Investigators said dozens of children were locked in isolation chambers at the facility and forced to wear shackles. 

The three defendants were led into the courtroom Wednesday morning in handcuffs.  James Brandyburg the defense attorney for Ms. Moffett pleaded for mercy for his client, saying Moffett had no criminal history.   

Moffett told the judge, "I loved those kids. I still do."

However, judge Charles Graddick said he had to consider the "extremely disturbing testimony" from young witnesses.  
Graddick said he would not allow his Labrador retriever to be put in a box and kept there.  And he said "I can't imagine shackling a bunch of children."  

Knott told the judge, "I never intended to cause any harm."

The judge commented on Knott's treatment of children at the church run facility saying "It has either caused significant mental issues, or if they didn't have drug problems they do now."

SYF owner and pastor of Solid Rock Ministries John Young was last to receive his sentence.  

Young told judge he started the residential program because he wanted to "save lives". 

Judge Graddick said he hopes Young will be able to have a positive impact in prison, because "I do intend to incarcerate you." 

Graddick sentenced each defendant to 20 years.

Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood said the state had recommended the maximum 20 year sentence for all of the defendants.

"I don't want anyone to have the impression that this was a boot camp operating as a legitimate boot camp type school.  This was a flat out horrific abusive facility," Blackwood said.

Former Prichard police Captain Charles Kennedy who has tried for years to shed light on abuses at the SYF hopes the sentences will lead to changes at other unlicensed teen facilities.   

"But this happens in America every day, and it needs to be stopped, and Alabama needs to do something about it," Kennedy said.

All three defendants are expected to appeal their convictions and request bond during the appeal process.  whether or not they get a bond will be up to the judge.  

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