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Lebanon couple seek reduced bond
Oct 06, 2004 12:00 am
A couple charged with keeping a teen under lock and chain while his weight dropped dangerously low portrayed themselves as a concerned softball coach and a "team mom" while unsuccessfully trying to win their freedom Monday.
General Sessions Judge Robert Hamilton refused to reduce the $50,000 bond set for Christie Osborne, 28, and James Osborne, 42, when they were arrested on child abuse charges two weeks ago, leaving the couple behind bars until at least next week, when they are scheduled to undergo a preliminary hearing.
Both defendants took the witness stand during Monday's hearing and vowed to return to court if freed on bond. The request was strongly opposed by Assistant District Attorney Jason Lawson, who argued the $50,000 bond was based on an "amount specifically set" by state lawmakers for child abuse defendants.
The Osbornes were charged after Lebanon police stated the couple's 15-year-old son had been chained and locked in their bedroom as his weight dwindled to only 49 pounds. Police said Christie Osborne claimed the restraints were used because the teen was a "troublemaker," and her husband gave investigators a statement basically admitting the youth was kept in bondage.
The teen – Christie Osborne's stepson – was hospitalized briefly but is now believed to be in state custody along with her three biological children, described by authorities as seemingly well cared for at the time the couple was arrested.
During her stint on the witness stand Christie Osborne testified she feels she and her husband should be allowed to regain custody of her three biological children if they are freed from custody.
"I don't see why I couldn't," she replied when Lawson asked if she felt she should be allowed to care for the children.
Osborne also told the court "I don't feel like I'm a threat" in response to another question from the prosecutor.
Under questioning by defense attorney Adam Parish, she testified about being "very involved" in the "schooling" of her biological children, saying they "make wonderful grades" and "are on the honor roll."
She also testified that she and her husband are active in a local softball league, where she serves as "team mom" to a squad James Osborne coaches.
She also claimed to have only one previous arrest on her a record, a domestic assault charge from "about seven years ago."
However, on cross examination Lawson got Osborne to admit she was awaiting trial on reckless endangerment charges at the time of her arrest two weeks ago.
She explained the seeming discrepancy by testifying she "didn't think it counted" because her case has not yet gone to court.
In his own turn on the stand, James Osborne told the court of hardships the couple has endured since their arrest, including the loss of his job and vehicle.
He said the couple's Wilson Avenue home has also been vandalized since their arrest and, like his wife, expressed a desire to see their children.
"I want to get my house back in order and get a place ready for my kids to live," Osborne testified.
Osborne initially denied any past arrest record but admitted when confronted by Lawson that he was convicted of larceny in Davidson County in 1981. He later said from the witness stand he thought the arrest occurred several years earlier, "when I was 18."
The state also produced two witnesses apparently intended to cloud the couple's credibility – a former landlord and the parent of a child who played on the couple's softball team.
Ex-landlord J.C. Fisher testified the couple "just moved off" and left him holding a note he had co-signed for their mobile home.
When Lawson asked if he believed the couple could be "trusted" Fisher answered, "To tell the truth I wouldn't. They don't do what they say they will do."
He was followed to the stand by William Bineham, who testified he will no longer allow his children to play on the Osborne's softball team because of "a lot of swearing in front of the children," which he attributed more to Christie Osborne than her husband.
"Christy was always real mouthy," he testified, adding her husband usually spoke "in a whisper."
Hamilton said little in denying the bond reduction request, calling the $50,000 bond "sufficient."
"I'll leave it as it is," the judge said before he left the bench.
The hearing began with defense attorney Bob Hamilton – no relation to the judge – asking a television camera be banned from the courtroom.
Hamilton noted a juvenile court gag order is already in effect regarding court action on the custody of the children and told the judge "negative publicity" is creating "less and less of a chance" for the couple to receive a fair trial.
"It would be hard to get good publicity under these circumstances," the judge replied, going on to note that under state law cameras are allowed in such proceedings.
"I think they (cameras) would have to be allowed to stay," the judge said.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.