EASTON — A Claiborne man found guilty Monday of three counts of neglect of a minor in connection to multiple incidents in 2021 was released from custody the day after his conviction.
Although several dozen potential jurors had already reported to the Talbot County Circuit Court early Monday morning for an expected three-day trial, David Brandon Carter, 35, chose to waive his right to a jury trial and enter an Alford plea.
Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Ross later found Carter guilty of three counts of neglect of a minor, misdemeanor charges, relating to three children, including an infant.
While Ross agreed with the state’s sentencing recommendation — a five-year sentence for the first count, suspending all but 18 months, two consecutive suspended 30-month sentences for the two remaining counts and a three-year supervised probation with special conditions — Carter was released from custody and began serving his probation Tuesday.
Carter was released due to credit for the time he spent in jail and in substance abuse treatment programs, along with additional good time credit that allowed the completion of his sentence.
Following his release, Carter will remain under supervised probation for three years. He will undergo substance use and mental health treatment, complete a parenting class and maintain no contact with the oldest child. If he violates the terms of probation, he could be subject to serving further incarceration.
The case against Carter stemmed from an anonymous call made to the Talbot County Department of Social Services in late July 2021 and was further supported by statements made by his oldest child in forensic interviews and information from concerned neighbors.
According to Talbot County Deputy State’s Attorney Ellen Barry Grunden, who prosecuted the case, the anonymous caller’s report shared observations of neglect involving the infant under Carter’s supervision. Details included hearing the child scream for an extended period of time without being attended to and seeing the infant left in a car for a period of time with an extremely full diaper, along with drug use while the child was present.
A forensic interview with the oldest child under Carter’s supervision was conducted at the Talbot County Children’s Advocacy Center days after the DSS report was made. The child described instances of drug use in the house and domestic violence incidents involving Carter, another household member and the younger child. The child reported seeing Carter drop the infant, and a bruise consistent with the incident was observed on the baby’s head.
The younger child was also interviewed at the CAC. The child told staff that her family was perfect and they all loved each other, Grunden said. However, when staff members told the child what her older sister said, the child replied that her sister “doesn’t lie.”
Carter was arrested on numerous charges, including sexual abuse of a minor, sex offenses, second-degree assault and child neglect, in early August 2021. Records from the Talbot County Detention Center indicated that he tested positive for alcohol, marijuana, benzodiazepines, methadone, cocaine and PCP at the time of intake, Grunden said.
Monday’s scheduled jury trial was set to be the first of three trials for Carter’s charges. The two upcoming trials were canceled and all remaining charges were dismissed following the plea.
Prior to sentencing, Grunden detailed Carter’s major prior criminal history, which included numerous drug charges, assault and a fourth-degree sex offense conviction from 2008 involving a teenage female.
Defense attorney So Alexandria Chun asked the court to accept the state’s recommendation of 18 months of active incarceration, explaining that the first half of 2021 was tough for Carter’s family and he was under a lot of stress.
Chun said that while Carter struggled with substance abuse, he had been in several treatment centers while in custody following his arrest and was currently in a sober living house. She asked the court to let him complete his treatment so he could get back on track with his family.
“Again, this man does not have much, and he has a lot of flaws and a lot of demons, but one thing he loves is his family and to be without them for as long as he has, it’s been devastating,” she said. “And it’s not just hard on him, but it’s hard on his family as well, Your Honor, so I just want the court to take all of that into consideration.”
Carter addressed Ross directly, saying that the case deeply affected both him and his family. He asserted his love for his family and his children, and asked the judge to see the man that he is, not the man he’s portrayed to be.
Carter also acknowledged his struggle with drug addiction, explaining how spent the past year in custody learning about himself and the disease of addiction. While he pleaded to the court for mercy in sentencing, he said he still intended to complete the substance abuse program he was currently in.
“I could stand here and try to sway you one way or another but what I really want you to know is that drugs have been a problem for me in the past,” he said. “I plan to do my absolute best in the future so they do not ever become a problem for me or anyone in my family, especially my children. I miss my kids.”
Ross asked Carter, a stay at home father, about his sober living time and work history, emphasizing that in the future, Carter would have to pull himself “up by the bootstraps” and get out in the workforce.
“And this indication that testing positive for alcohol, THC, benzodiazepines, methadone, cocaine, PCP, when you were arrested was somehow caused by stress is just a complete copout,” Ross said.
Carter agreed, saying he was a different person then.
“Given your criminal history — which you just can’t run from at this point, you’re a major offender — you got an exceptional deal, if you will, in this case,” he said, adding that if Carter was convicted by a jury, he would likely be going to prison.
“You’ve probably run out of chances at this point, and it’s going to be on you to continue,” Ross continued, later adding that the person who’s under stress is his daughter.
In a post-sentencing interview, Grunden said Carter entering the plea guaranteed that the children’s testimony during the trial would not have been necessary.
“Had this been a case where the witnesses were professionals or even adults, the decision might have been different,” she said, adding that for once, the weight came off of the kids’ shoulders.
However, the oldest child’s mother expressed disappointment in the judicial system after sentencing, saying that while her child was somewhat protected, the system hadn’t held Carter accountable for his actions.
“Her voice has been silenced by (a jury) not hearing everything,” she said.
In spite of frustrations with the court, the mother said she’s glad her child can finally move forward with her life.