James Hutchinson case: Court says appeal of man connected to boy’s death is ‘wholly frivolous’

An appeals court has reviewed the case record of a Middletown man who abused a 6-year-old boy and disposed of his body in the Ohio River after his mother killed him, and it found no errors.

The opinion comes two months after an appellate attorney called the court proceedings “pristine,” saying he could find no errors, but asked the 12th District Court of Appeals to review the case of James Hamilton.

Hamilton, 42, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, two counts of child endangering and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with the abuse and death of James Hutchinson and abuse of his two older siblings in February 2021.

In October, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Noah Powers II sentenced Hamilton to the maximum of 19 years in prison. He will be eligible for release after 15 years, but could serve the maximum depending on his behavior in prison.

Brittany Gosney, 29, Hamilton’s girlfriend and Hutchinson’s mother, pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of felony child endangering for killing Hutchinson and abusing his siblings. She was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 21 years on Sept. 13.

Hamilton’s attorney during the litigation of the case, Jeremy Evans, filed a notice of appeal to the 12th District Court of Appeals two days after sentencing. Hamilton was then appointed attorney John H. Forg III for that appeal.

In December, Forg filed a brief stating, “there are no grounds for appeal in this case. Hamilton voluntarily admitted his (guilt), the plea was pristine and the sentence imposed fell within the accepted range.”

Forg requested to withdraw as Hamilton’s appellate attorney.

“Counsel has concluded that any further proceedings in the matter would be frivolous and without merit,” Forg said.

In what is commonly referred in the legal world as an “Anders brief,” Forg did raise some legal areas that might be ripe for appeal, including ineffective assistance of counsel, the validity of the plea, the validity of the sentence and correct Ohio law procedures followed at sentencing. But he concluded after reviewing the record, there were no errors in each instance.

He requested the 12th District Court conduct an independent review of the case record “to ascertain the exitance of any possible viable legal issue.”

Today, the 12th district issued a short, unanimous decision stating, “We have accordingly examined the record and find no error prejudicial to appellant’s rights in the proceedings of the trial court ... this appeal is dismissed for the reason that it is wholly frivolous.”

The appeals court also granted Forg’s request to withdraw as Hamilton’s appellate attorney.

Gosney’s attorney David Washington said in December his client will not filed an appeal, which was part of her plea agreement.

The case shocked and saddened the Middletown community and attracted national media attention. At the sentencing, Middletown Officer Jon Hoover and Detective Tom McIntosh, who got confessions from both defendants, were in the courtroom. So were officials from Middletown Schools, where Hutchinson was a well-liked first-grader at Rosa Parks Elementary.

The case moved quickly through the court system, even during a time of COVID-19 delays, because of the confessions and evidence, including home surveillance camera videos, collected during the investigation.

Hamilton admitted to hog-tying Hutchinson, putting a cloth in his mouth and leaving him. He also admitted to doing the same to Hutchinson’s siblings and throwing the 6-year-old’s body in the Ohio River on Feb. 28.

Gosney admitted to taking her three children to Rush Run during the early-morning hours of Feb. 26, then moving the trio out of the van. When James clung to the van, he was dragged and killed.

Hutchinson’s body has not been found despite many efforts by dive teams.

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