A Konawa man and his girlfriend were charged Friday with participating in an attack on the man’s 8-year-old son, which was captured in a disturbing video and posted online.
The complaint against Joshua Whittington includes two counts of felony child abuse or alternative counts of enabling child abuse by injury, which are also felonies. If convicted, Whittington could be ordered to pay up to $5,000 in fines for each count or spend time — possibly the rest of his life — in prison.
Whittington’s girlfriend, Tracy Casteel, was charged with two felony counts of enabling child abuse during a brief hearing in Seminole County District Court. The possible sentences are the same as in Whittington’s case.
The two adults will return to court at 8:30 a.m. June 18 for a status hearing, which will determine whether a preliminary hearing should be scheduled.
Whittington and Casteel are still in custody at the Seminole County jail. Whittington’s bond has been set at $250,000, based on his criminal history and his alleged involvement in the attack.
Casteel is being held on $75,000 bond because she does not have a criminal history and because she apparently played a smaller role in the attack.
Both adults have applied for a court-appointed attorney.
Casteel’s 15-year-old son, who allegedly carried out the attack, has been charged with two counts of child abuse, said assistant Seminole County District Attorney Paul Smith. The charges against the teenager will be formally presented during a hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday, which will be closed to the public since he is a minor.
The teenager will be prosecuted as a juvenile rather than as an adult. If he is convicted, the judge will have a wide range of sentencing options, including probation or placement in state custody until the boy reaches a certain age.
The video appears to show that one of the adults instigated the attack, which could be a mitigating factor in the juvenile case, said Smith, who is handling that case.
The teenager remains in state custody and is being held without bond.
Whittington, Casteel and the teenager were arrested earlier this month after a violent video was posted to the social media site Instagram. News of the video attracted statewide and national attention before it was taken off Instagram.
The 8-year-old boy was wearing a football helmet in the video, and the 15-year-old took a running start and kicked the younger boy in the head several times. After the second kick, the 8-year-old started crying.
A caption under the video read, “what this kid will do for a piece of gum.”
Authorities believe that Whittington was holding the camera during the attack while Casteel was looking on.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Anderson, who is handling the adults’ cases, declined to comment Friday except to note that the defendants are innocent until proven guilty.
Reach Eric Swanson at firstname.lastname@example.org.