SCRANTON — Two men from Lackawanna County were picked up in Scranton this week on child abuse charges.
Because of recent changes to Pennsylvania’s assault laws, those two men are facing felony charges. Just a few months ago all they could have been charged with was a misdemeanor.
For the month of April, the lawn outside the Lackawanna County Courthouse has been filled with pinwheels. Each represent a child abused in Lackawanna County, then helped by the Children’s Advocacy Center in Scranton.
The pinwheels add some color to the place where Scranton Police filed stiffer child abuse charges against two men this week.
“These two new sub-sections deal with the aggravated assault statute but require less injury when the child is under a certain age. Both of these cases reflect those new sub-sections that recently went into effect,” said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge.
In both cases, police charged the men with aggravated assault of a child which is a felony. Though their alleged acts previously would have fit only a misdemeanor crime.
According to court papers, police charged Brian VanBuskirk of Dunmore on Tuesday after he admitted to hitting his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter in the face.
On Wednesday, police charged Raymond McDowell of Scranton for causing his 10-month-old son’s leg to break. Though the little boy needed surgery, Prosecutors said McDowell would have much less severe consequences before this new law.
“Once you have the first initial case to go through, and you get a true sentence and not just a slap on the wrist, I think parents will think twice about hitting their children,” said Sarah Lutkowski of Dunmore.
People Newswatch 16 talked to said the pinwheels on Courthouse Square in Scranton say it all, that stiffer child abuse laws were needed in Pennsylvania.
“As somebody who knows someone very important to me who was abused at a very young age, we just didn’t feel like anything would be enough to make up for it. So, to know at least little things are happening to make it better is really, it’s really a positive thing,” said Kendra Raidley of Scranton.
A stiffer law means a potentially stiffer consequence. Brian VanBuskirk and Raymond McDowell both face prison time for the abuse they’re accused of.