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BOY TELLS JUDGE TO JAIL ABUSER

The stepfather tried to cover up his breaking the boy's leg. He is sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The little blond boy didn't hesitate when the prosecutor asked him what should happen to the man who kicked him so hard it snapped his right thigh bone.

"I want him to go to jail," said the boy, now 6.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett agreed and sentenced George Allen Ross to 11 years in prison Tuesday.

Ross, 27, pleaded guilty to one count each of child abuse and aggravated child abuse. In addition to breaking the boy's leg, Ross also was accused of punching the boy's older brother in the stomach in January 2006.

The boys' stepmother, whose name is being withheld to protect their identities, wept with relief after the hearing.

"It was justice," she said. "At least they'll be old enough to protect themselves when he gets out. That's all we asked for."

This wasn't the first time Ross struck the younger boy. In February 2004, he broke the boy's left thigh bone. The child was 3 years old at the time.

"Thank god he doesn't have a third leg because that would probably be broken a year later," assistant state attorney Rita Peters told Padgett.

Ross is the boys' stepfather. His wife, Gretchen Ross, is their biological mother. She and Ross had custody of the children until this incident occurred.

Since then, their biological father and stepmother have had custody of the children.

According to the stepmother, the boys are still suffering the effects of the abuse. They both attend psychological counseling. The younger boy had to wear a cast from the waist down and may have lasting physical problems from the broken legs, she said.

At the beginning of the hearing, Ross apologized to Padgett and said he was determined to change.

"During the course of this, I learned what kind of a person I was," he said. "I believe I can still be a good father. I want to be a good father and husband."

His attorney, Anna Frederiksen-Cherry, told Padgett her client was a victim of child abuse. She said his father was a very religious and strict man who would starve his son because he thought indulging in food was a sin.

Ross' father also prevented him from cutting his hair and wouldn't allow him to wear shoes to church, Frederiksen-Cherry said.

She introduced a psychologist, Bernie Wilkinson, who said Ross was suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Gretchen Ross also testified on her husband's behalf. She said he had been dutifully attending parenting classes and counseling sessions and asked Padgett to have mercy on her husband.

"I didn't just choose one person over the next," she said, tearfully. "I chose my family. And right now, my husband is the only person available to me."

Assistant state attorney Peters said Ross initially tried to cover up his actions. He instructed the younger brother to tell Hillsborough sheriff's detectives he tripped over a cat and fell down the stairs. The boys told investigators the truth after they were separated from Ross and his wife, Peters said.

Ross later told investigators the boys were disrespecting their mother and he was trying to discipline them, Peters said.

Peters was incensed by the suggestion that Ross' actions were influenced by his own childhood. She accused Ross of attempting to shift the blame.

"George Ross cleans up well and tells you what he thinks you want him to hear," she said. "He's trying to paint himself as the victim."

Carrie Weimar can be reached at (813) 226-3416 or cweimar@sptimes.com.

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