DECATUR — Kenneth E. Wells, the Decatur man accused of encouraging his wife in a fight with another wife and mother that went viral on Facebook, was sentenced to 18 months probation on Wednesday.
Wells, 30, appeared in Macon County Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to a single count of causing the life or health of a child to be endangered.
A sworn Decatur police affidavit about the fight, which took place in the 900 block of East Garfield Avenue the morning of Aug. 18, had described multiple children from ages 4 to 11 lined up nearby to watch.
Police Officer Brandon Rolfs said the children came from both families and were gathered together by their parents as spectators while their mothers punched, kicked and wrestled on the ground. Rolfs had said any of the kids might have been injured and none of the adults involved “demonstrated any concern” for their safety.
The police had never described Wells as taking part in the fight physically, but said he was just as much to blame. Rolfs said Wells had unleashed a profanity-laced stream of shouted fight instructions and encouragement to his wife, Shinka L. Brown, 26, as she battled with 36-year-old Torianna R. Reed.
The fight came after a child in Reed’s family allegedly broke the finger of a child in Wells family during an incident on a school bus. The two mothers then arranged via Facebook to fight each other and a video of the altercation had been viewed 2 million times with 44,000 shares and 16,000 comments before being taken down.
Wells accepted a plea deal negotiated by his attorney, Scott Rueter, which saw Judge Thomas Griffith dismiss charges of aggravated battery and mob action. He also dismissed six additional charges of causing children to be endangered.
Wells was on probation at the time of the wife fight. He was sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 after pleading guilty to aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. Griffith warned Wells that this latest conviction could “affect your parole status.”
Presenting the case for the prosecution, Assistant Macon County State’s Attorney Kate Kurtz said she had made the same plea deal offer to both Brown and Reed. “This defendant is just the first to come in and take the offer,” she told Griffith. “And I do anticipate the other defendants will do the same.”
Both Reed and Brown face charges of aggravated battery, mob action and seven counts of endangering the life or health of a child. Reed is set for a pretrial hearing Nov. 2 and Brown is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Oct. 24. They both have pleaded not guilty to all charges.