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Tenn. Father Made Son Binge-Drink as Punishment: Cops

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 17, 2014 12:32 PM

A Tennessee dad has been arrested after he allegedly forced his 15-year-old son to drink alcohol until he passed out unconscious, as punishment for being caught drinking.

Mark Hughes, 35, has been charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect in addition to contributing to the delinquency of a child. According to East Tennessee's WBIR-TV, witnesses told police that Hughes forced his teen son to play a drinking game with him during Saturday's Tennessee football game after he caught the boy drinking.

What was this father thinking?

Clever Punishment Can Be Child Abuse

Hughes wouldn't have been the first parent to try an aversion-therapy approach to teaching children to stay away from drugs or alcohol. A common variant of this method is for children who have been caught smoking to "learn their lesson" by smoking the entire pack or carton. It was even featured in an episode of "King of the Hill." But not even Hank Hill would have forced his son to imbibe enough alcohol until he lost consciousness.

Some states have exceptions for underage drinking when in a private residence and with parental supervision, but Tennessee is not among them. The misguided Tennessee father was actually forcing his son to commit a crime by enlisting him in a football drinking game, which is why he was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

And while Tennessee may allow parents to spank their kids, aggravated child abuse can be charged whenever abuse results in serious bodily injury to the child. After Hughes' son's punishment, witnesses allegedly had to fight an intoxicated Hughes to take the boy to the hospital. WBIR reports that when police arrived, "the boy had no pulse" and was airlifted to a hospital.

'Prosecuted to the Fullest'

With child abuse cases in the news, authorities in Hughes' case are not going to miss an opportunity to potentially nail Hughes to the wall. Sweetwater, Tennessee, Police Chief Eddie Byrum told WBIR that "[w]e're going to prosecute [Hughes' case] to the fullest" and "use this as an example" for future discipline-as-abuse cases.

Hughes could face between eight and 30 years in prison for aggravated child abuse, and it seems unlikely that he'll be able to strike a sympathetic plea deal.

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