According to the suit filed against the couple, James picked up Cheryl's 4-year old son from pre-school and the teacher said the boy "misbehaved by coloring on a table". The documents claim the gospel singer "scolded the toddler" on the way home, put him in time out at home, "continued to yell and berate the child" then started "preparing a scalding bath" for the 4-year old boy.The lawsuit goes on to say "James instructed (the child) to remove his clothes and began to whip the naked toddler with a switch". Then the suit accuses James Fortune of "pushing the toddler in the scalding water and holding him down causing second and third degree burns to 47% of his body". The little boy was flown by "life flight to Memorial Hermann Hospital. The doctors determined the injuries were too extensive and the boy was flown by life flight to Shriners Burn Hospital in Galveston where he remained for 63 days" according to the lawsuit. The boy has had "numerous skin graft operations to both hands, legs, buttocks and genitals and is permanently disfigured". Child Protective Services was called and charges were filed. That all happened in 2001. In 2003 James Fortune pled guilty to felony Injury To a Child and received 6-years deferred adjudication.The biodad, who's also suing James' wife Cheryl, says the $5 million will be used to cover reconstructive surgery costs.
Sidebar: Information regarding that 2001 case and 2003 conviction is non-existent on the Internet (or we couldn't find it). Not even his Wikipedia page makes mention of it. We wonder why.
Update:. Here's why. We wanted to know what "deferred adjudication" is, so thanks to the Internet we found that it's basically probation and after completing the probation, the person's record is expunged. Even though the person pled guilty, his record will never show a conviction or that he was even arrested. After the probation, he can file what is called a petition for non-disclosure which seals the criminal record of the offense from private entities, keeping potential employers, his record label, church members, nosey bloggers, nosey blog readers and the like from knowing about the offense. So if you catch a case one day, tell your attorney you want to plead guilty and then request a deferred adjudication. But really? You just get away scot-free for burning a child -- a 4-year-old child! -- over 50% of his body causing permanent disfigurement? Not to mention the emotional damage this caused this poor child. Wow!
Editor's Note: Thanks to the Internet, we corrected the first line of this post to reflect that James is no longer (or were?) a convicted felon.
Update, Juen 27: James is "shocked' by the lawsuit and issued this statement, claiming the boy's father is only suing him because he's rich and famous. LOL. "Several months ago I received a demand for payment from my stepson's father for an injury to my stepson that occurred in 2001. In the midst of negotiating a settlement regarding that injury, I was served with a lawsuit and now my wife and I are defending ourselves in civil court. At no time in my life was I convicted of felony injury to a child. Following my step-son's injury, there was a criminal investigation and all matters were resolved. Since that time, my family and I, including my stepson, have maintained a continuous loving family environment. Although his father has maintained custody, Cheryl and I have enjoyed continuous uninterrupted open visitations with my step-son since 2001. We are shocked by this lawsuit but understand people are free to use the court system to pursue matters, whether or not the claims are baseless. We are confident through this process, the ultimate decision maker will render an outcome that is just and fair. We believe in our American justice system and know that once all facts are made transparent justice will prevail in our favor. This lawsuit is a direct result of our desire to continue the uninterrupted love, commitment and financial support as well as to protect the ongoing wellbeing while enhancing the current living conditions of our son. We have given our stepson who is currently in our care during his summer break continuous support and understand these allegations are a direct result of not only our increased profile and financial viability but an individuals desire to exploit such. We intend to vehemently defend our right to protect our family while maintaining the character integrity and trusted core values the Fortune family has been blessed to exemplify."
Here's a news video report with photos of injuries the boy sustained.
Update, June 28: According to KRIV, constables went to James' home on three occasions to serve him with the lawsuit, but they "have not been able to get him to accept it."