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Reaction to former city councilman's guilty plea to child neglect

Former city councilman pleads guilty to child neglect

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A former Colorado Springs city councilman pleaded guilty to child neglect.

Charles Wingate's son was found alone in a house filled with garbage and human waste in may 2013.

His son isn't with the family. The Colorado Department of Human Services says it can't talk about a specific case.

Wingate will serve two years unsupervised probation and pay about 400 dollars in fines.

He and his wife, Sharon Starkey were cited last May after police found their 13-year-old son home alone living in filthy conditions including trash, human waste, live and dead rodents.

Wingate's guilty plea is for a class two misdemeanor. The charge alone surprised a criminal defense lawyer.

He told a judge Monday morning the conditions he and his wife allowed their special needs son to live in were "deplorable" and that he's "sorry it happened."

NewsChannel 13 tried to talk to Wingate and his wife.

"No comment," said Starkey.

"The fact that the District Attorney's Office chose to file an M2 as opposed to at least an M1 was very shocking to me," said criminal defense lawyer Jeremy Loew.

Loew says the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office charged Wingate with a class two misdemeanor because the DA believed Wingate was only negligent because of the trash, human waste and rodents in the house that could've hurt his son.

"It would seem to me based upon the cases I've seen that he was absolutely knowing and reckless in his treatment of his child, not just merely negligent," said Loew.

However, the District Attorney's Office stands by the class two misdemeanor.

"In this particular case, what it fit into was that placing a child in a situation where they're endangered, it's a threat of injury," said Deputy District Attorney Jim Bentley.

This isn't Wingate's first run-in with the law. In 2002, Wingate was charged with five felonies and two misdemeanors after police alleged he kept a $190 advance for a council trip, then stole the number of a Colorado Springs Utilities credit card and ordered pizza with it.

In May 2003, prosecutors filed 12 more charges, including an allegation that he pawned his city-owned computer.

Wingate quit the council in 2003 and pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement of public funds and the rest of the charges were dropped.

"Given the fact that he's been charged with felonies in his past and misdemeanors in his past, I'm shocked that he was charged with merely an M2," said Loew.

Wingate's past doesn't determine his future.

"What someone's prior record may or may not be doesn't come into play when you're looking at what the charges are," said Bentley.

Wingate could've served a maximum of one year in jail for committing a class two misdemeanor. Loew says if the DA proved the conditions in the house caused "serious bodily injury" to the boy, Wingate could've been charged with a felony.

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