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Viles sentenced to 15 years, 7 fixed, for voluntary manslaughter

Anthony Blake Viles has been sentenced to 15 years, seven of those years fixed in jail time, for the death of his son, Afton, on April 15, 2012.

While there was never any question that Viles was responsible, as he confessed to the voluntary manslaughter charge, the concern was that it took him several hours to call for medical help.

On the night of April 15, police say Viles and Afton were having an argument about Afton’s homework. Viles left the room, reportedly saying that he couldn’t wait until Afton was older so he could take him on.

When Viles went back into the room, he said he found Afton holding a knife. Viles reported he hit him “very hard,” in the forehead, causing Afton to fall backward and hit his head on the floor, where he was unresponsive.

Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Herzog said Viles lack of action showed he was more worried about himself and jail time, rather than Afton’s life. Herzog stated the reaction of almost anyone when a child is hurt, especially the parents’ reaction, should be to get help to the child immediately.

While Herzog’s request for seven to eight years ultimately prevailed, he said in a case like this, there is no victory.

“He didn’t do anything other than be a kid,” Herzog said. “It’s really unfair, and it’s incredibly sad. That’s the bottom line.”

But Bannock County Public Defender Randy Schulthies disagreed that Afton did nothing, saying Afton had severe problems that Viles was not prepared to handle.

During the trial, Schulthies called three witnesses to testify that Viles was a kind, caring and non-violent man; a social worker who observed Afton and his father on several occasions, a counselor at the State Hospital South in Blackfoot that worked with Viles after he was considered incompetent and Viles grandfather.

Viles grandfather said he witnessed Afton hitting his head on a door jam and and hitting himself with his fists. He said while this was a tough situation, Viles never showed any sign of aggression toward his son.

“His history doesn’t show any behavior like this,” Schulthies said. “That’s one of the things I tried to emphasize to the judge.”

However, while Schulthies used this fact as a main part of his defense, he said Afton’s death was a tragedy, and said nobody can put blame wholly on Viles, or on Afton.

“He (Afton) may have caused some tension that resulted in this happening, but he was still an innocent young boy,” Schulthies said. “That’s the toughest part of the case both for me personally as well as the judge and the whole system.”

Herzog agreed that was indeed a tough part of the case, but he added that it was important to consider the bigger picture in a case like this.

“You’re trying to balance the various interests of the parties that are at odds with each other,” Herzog said. “The victim’s family, but also, what’s fair for the defendant? And what’s best for the community?”

After the trial, reporter Chris Cole spoke with Afton’s mother, Jessica Wrigley over the phone. She said she was very disappointed with the decision, and that this ruling indicates it’s OK to kill children in Idaho, because you will get away with it.

However she was called into question regarding why Afton had been removed from her home in Washington in the first place, saying child protective services took away Afton after she was found to be putting hot sauce on his tongue for swearing. She said she has been cleared of all accusations and now has her children.

Viles also spoke before the decision was made, stating he was considering conducting seminars of some kind to help others who may be dealing with children like Afton.

In his ruling, Judge Stephen Dunn said he felt Viles could be rehabilitated, but felt it was necessary to have 15 full years with law enforcement, counseling and other supervision.

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