BROOKSVILLE — David Alan McBurnett stood at the lectern and looked up at the ceiling as the judge considered his fate.
Three years ago, McBurnett, 23, was sentenced to two years in prison and four years of probation for his role in the death of his then-girlfriend's 1-year-old son. On Thursday, McBurnett admitted to Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. that he violated his probation last month when a police officer found him with a small amount of marijuana.
Merritt could have extended McBurnett's probation or given him as many as 15 years in prison. With little comment, the judge sentenced him to 12 years, with credit for 786 days served.
McBurnett's face crumpled as he fought back tears. He kissed his finger and pointed at his family sitting in the second row. His mother and fiancee began to cry.
McBurnett was 19 when he was arrested in 2009 and charged with aggravated child abuse, a week after Hunter Lee Morris was taken to the emergency room with internal bleeding, a fractured rib and bruises that likely left him brain dead, investigators said. McBurnett and Hunter's mother, Breanna Underwood, lived with McBurnett's mother in Istachatta.
A day after the arrest, Hunter died, and deputies added the first-degree murder charge.
During Thursday's hearing, defense attorney Ellis Faught Jr., who also represented McBurnett in the first case, reminded Merritt that depositions and other evidence did not show that McBurnett was the abuser.
McBurnett, of Brooksville, ultimately pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence and was sentenced as a youthful offender. No one else was charged in the case.
"One thing that was clear to myself and the state was that Mr. McBurnett did no physical harm to the child," Faught said.
Last month, a Brooksville police officer pulled McBurnett over for a traffic stop and noticed a marijuana cigarette behind his ear. Faught asked Merritt on Thursday to sentence McBurnett under youthful offender guidelines, which would have meant a maximum prison term of six years.
Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, who handled the original case, told Merritt that McBurnett deserved 12 years in prison.
"Clearly, the evidence showed he was present and took no steps to properly supervise the child," Magrino said.
As for the new charge, he said, "Although one can say misdemeanor possession of marijuana possession is miniscule, I don't have that belief."
Afterward, McBurnett's family said the sentence was unfair. His fiancee, Aleisha Edwards, said he has been loving and protective of her 2-year-old son.
"I told him I'm going to wait for him," Edwards said. "He's my soulmate."