Saturday, December 13, 2008

Man on Trial for video of toddlers smoking Marijuana

FORT WORTH — The amateur video is eye-catching.
Two men are seen laughing as they light what looks like a marijuana cigarette for two toddlers and hold it to their mouths. The little boys are shown coughing and stumbling.
And the two men ask the children whether they "have the munchies" and call them "potheads."
That video seized from a Watauga home by police last year could be one of the key pieces of evidence against Vanswan Polty, 20, who goes to trial Tuesday, accused of being one of the young men who badgered the 2- and 4-year-old boys to smoke the marijuana.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Criminal District Court No. 2 in Fort Worth.
Prosecutors are trying Polty on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity, a felony that carries a stiffer penalty than charges of injury to a child.
If convicted on injury charges, Polty would have faced a maximum of 10 years in prison on each count. If he is convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity, Polty will face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
He is accused of committing several burglaries in Tarrant County last year just before the video was made. The incident involving the toddlers will be used in the trial, authorities said.
Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Darrell Davila declined to comment on the pending trial.
"I intend to defend him to the best of my ability," said Timmie White of Fort Worth, Polty’s attorney.
In July, Demetris McCoy, 18, the other young man seen in the video giving the marijuana to the toddlers, reached an agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to two charges of injury to a child/causing bodily injury. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.
As part of the agreement, McCoy will testify against Polty. The toddlers are McCoy’s nephews.
White said he doesn’t know what McCoy will say in court.
"I will point out to the jury what a sweet deal he got," White said, referring to McCoy’s plea agreement.
McCoy also pleaded guilty to two charges of burglary of a habitation and received eight years on each of those charges. All the sentences will run at the same time.
The investigation
Polty and McCoy were arrested in February 2007 after police found the video while executing a search warrant in the 6000 block of Hickory Hill Road in Watauga, where McCoy’s grandmother lives. Police were investigating burglaries that McCoy and Polty were suspected of committing.
A 16-year-old who authorities say filmed the incident was taken into custody several days after McCoy and Polty were arrested. The teen faced a delinquent conduct charge in the incident, but information was not available on the case.
In the house
The children’s mother, Shatoria Russell, has said that she was asleep in another room in the home, which she shared with her children, McCoy and his grandmother.
Russell and McCoy’s grandmother were not charged.
The video
It shows two men coaxing the little boys to smoke marijuana. Tests showed that the children had traces of marijuana and cocaine in their systems.
The children
Child Protective Services removed the children from the home shortly after McCoy’s arrest. Russell did not participate in any of the services required for her to regain custody of her two sons and continued to test positive for drugs, according to a CPS official. Russell relinquished her parental rights in December, a CPS official has said.
The children are with a family that is attempting to adopt them, a CPS official said.

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