An ex-Little League baseball coach pleaded guilty on May 31 to spanking the bare bottoms of four of his young players without parental permission in Henderson County, North Carolina.
Jonathan Shawn Russell, 33, was charged with four misdemeanor counts of assault on a child under 12, the Citizen-Times reports.
According to police warrants, he was accused of "pulling down child victim’s pants and his underwear and spanking him on his buttocks multiple times with his hands."
The children, ages 8 and 9, were spanked between August 2014 and January 2015.
Russell said he spanked the four victims and his own kids per a Christian book, "Shepherding a Child's Heart."
Russell quotes the book as saying, "If you fail to spank, you don't take God seriously and don't love your child enough."
The book, written by Tedd Tripp, describes eight steps for parents to follow when spanking a child, including taking down their pants for the punishment, hugging and telling the child how they love them and praying with the child after the spanking.
The Amazon description of the book states: "Written for parents with children of any age, this insightful book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child's heart into the paths of life. "Shepherding a Child's Heart" gives fresh biblical approaches to child rearing."
"I cared for these children just like they were my own, and I did the same when it came to discipline," Russell stated. "My purpose was to get them to an understanding that their behavior needed to be changed. It was done with a motive of love. We never left the room until they had a smile on their face."
According to district attorney Greg Newman, Russell told one victim: "What happens at Coach Russell's house stays at Coach Russell's house," and told another victim there was "no need to tell his parents because it only mattered to [Russell]."
The spankings occurred at Russell's home, where his players would sometimes spend the night.
"I recognized the misapplication in the sense that these weren't my children and this wasn't my place," Russell stated in court. "I never tried to hide it from their parents, but I didn't have their permission either."
"John is a man of integrity and honor," Phillip Smith, a pastor and friend of Russell's, stated. "I love him not only as a brother in Christ but as my own brother."
However, a mom of one of the victims said Russell "used his Christianity in a sick and twisted way."
Henderson County Superior Court judge Bradley Letts sentenced Russell to 60 days in jail and 18 months of supervised probation.
Sources: Citizen-Times, Amazon / Photo Credit: Henderson County Sheriff’s Office via Mugshots.com