Friday, February 08, 2002

Man who beat teen-ager sentenced after plea deal

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A Clearcreek Township father who blamed the painkiller OxyContin for his actions, turned to the teen he beat with a flashlight and asked for forgiveness Thursday after pleading guilty to one count of felonious assault.

        “I'm sorry, Dustin. I'm sorry, all of you,” a teary-eyed Dillon Beckwith said to Springboro football star Dustin Griffen and his family. “Please have it in your heart for yourself to learn to forgive.”

        In a last-minute deal that included an agreement on sentencing, the 47-year-old disabled factory worker was sentenced to four years in prison, with the understanding that he will be released in six months on good behavior.

        As part of the agreement, Warren County Common Pleas Judge P. Daniel Fedders ordered Mr. Beckwith to be placed on community control for five years. If he commits a crime during the remainder of the four-year sentence, he would be returned to prison, Judge Fedders said. A second count of felonious assault was dropped.

        Mr. Griffen's family had turned down an earlier proposal that called for Mr. Beckwith to plead guilty to a reduced charge, with an 18-month sentence and release after six months. Mr. Griffen and his relatives declined comment after Thursday's hearing.

        “It's a good result,” said Assistant Prosecutor James Beaton, who spent more than an hour Thursday morning negotiating the plea to satisfy the Griffen family.

        “The guy goes to prison. If he keeps his nose clean he gets out in six months. If he screws up, he's got 3 1/2 years hanging over his head.”

        Defense attorney Jon Paul Rion called the agreement fair, saying Mr. Beckwith did not want to chance a possible eight-year sentence if he went to trial and lost.

        Mr. Rion was ready to claim that OxyContin caused Mr. Beckwith to lose control July 20 and unleash a serious and unprovoked beating on Mr. Griffen.

        Mr. Griffen, a high school senior, had driven Mr. Beckwith's daughter, Yvonne, home from the Warren County Fair as a favor to a friend. Prosecutors said Mr. Beckwith ambushed Mr. Griffen in his car as the daughter was stepping out of the vehicle.

        Mr. Griffen, a running back and an All-Mid-Miami-League defensive back, suffered broken facial bones and required 50 stitches.

        “Dillon still believes OxyContin was the main contributor to this offense. He had no idea this drug could have that effect on him,” Mr. Rion said. “There was no motivation in this case.”

        He said Mr. Beckwith knew his daughter was at the fair with her friends and had known Dustin for years and liked him.

        He said Mr. Beckwith, who had severe pain from a work-related back injury that left him disabled in 1995, consumed a 40-milligram OxyContin tablet that night from an old prescription after being unable to find his prescription for another painkiller, Vicodin.

        Mr. Beckwith's doctor had prescribed Vicodin after Mr. Beckwith experienced side effects from OxyContin, which was mistakenly filled at four times the prescribed dosage, Mr. Rion said.

        Prosecutors disputed the OxyContin defense, saying Mr. Beckwith knew he had problems with the drug, but took it anyway. Mr. Beaton said several teens were ready to testify that they had talked to Mr. Beckwith by cell phone before Mr. Griffen arrived at the home, and that Mr. Beckwith had said, “Dustin is in trouble.”

        Officials of Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, said that it is unlikely that the drug, an opiate, causes violent behavior.

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