Appellate attorney asks to withdraw, says proceedings ‘pristine’ for man connected to 6-year-old’s death

Credit: Journal News

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James Hamilton sentencing

Credit: Journal News

A Middletown man who abused a 6-year-old boy and disposed of his body in the Ohio River after his mother killed him has appealed his case, but his appellate attorney called the proceedings “pristine,” saying he could find no errors.

James Hamilton, 42, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, two counts of child endangering and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with the abuse and death of James Hutchinson and abuse of his two older siblings in February.

In October, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Noah Powers II sentenced Hamilton to the maximum of 19 years in prison. He will be eligible for release after 15 years, but could serve the maximum depending on his behavior in prison.

Brittany Gosney, 29, Hamilton’s girlfriend and Hutchinson’s mother, pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of felony child endangering for killing Hutchinson and abusing his siblings. She was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 21 years on Sept. 13.

Hamilton’s attorney during the litigation of the case, Jeremy Evans, filed a notice of appeal to the 12th District Court of Appeals two days after sentencing. Hamilton was then appointed attorney John H. Forg III for that appeal.

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James Robert Hutchinson

James Robert Hutchinson
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James Robert Hutchinson

On Monday, Forg filed a brief stating, “there are no grounds for appeal in this case. Hamilton voluntarily admitted his (guilt), the plea was pristine and the sentence imposed fell within the accepted range.”

Forg requested to withdraw as Hamilton’s appellate attorney.

“Counsel has concluded that any further proceedings in the matter would be frivolous and without merit,” Forg said.

In what is commonly referred in the legal world as an “Anders brief,” Forg did raise some legal areas that might be ripe for appeal, including ineffective assistance of counsel, the validity of the plea, the validity of the sentence and correct Ohio law procedures followed at sentencing. But he concluded after reviewing the record, there were no errors in each instance.

He requested the 12th District Court conduct an independent review of the case record “to ascertain the exitance of any possible viable legal issue.”

Ben Manning, 12th District Court administrator, said Hamilton has a right to file a response himself to his attorney’s findings. He said the “court will review the case file and if they find any issues that are even arguable, alternative counsel will be appointed to brief any issues.”

Gosney’s attorney David Washington said his client will not filed an appeal, which was part of her plea agreement.

The case shocked and saddened the Middletown community and attracted national media attention. At the sentencing, Middletown Officer Jon Hoover and Detective Tom McIntosh, who got confessions from both defendants, were in the courtroom. So were officials from Middletown Schools, where Hutchinson was a well-liked first-grader at Rosa Parks Elementary.

The case moved quickly through the court system, even during a time of COVID-19 delays, because of the confessions and evidence, including home surveillance camera videos, collected during the investigation.

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Hamilton admitted to hog-tying Hutchinson, putting a cloth in his mouth and leaving him. He also admitted to doing the same to Hutchinson’s siblings and throwing the 6-year-old’s body in the Ohio River on Feb. 28.

Gosney admitted to taking her three children to Rush Run during the early-morning hours of Feb. 26, then moving the trio out of the van. When James clung to the van, he was dragged and killed.

Hutchinson’s body has not been found despite many efforts by dive teams.

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Brittany Gosney pleaded guilty to murder Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court. She killed her son, James Hutchison, 6, at Preble County wild life park. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Brittany Gosney pleaded guilty to murder Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court. She killed her son, James Hutchison, 6, at  Preble County wild life park. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Brittany Gosney pleaded guilty to murder Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court. She killed her son, James Hutchison, 6, at Preble County wild life park. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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