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Man vows innocence in slapping

Roger Stephens

Roger Stephens

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Nearly four months since the alleged slaps heard 'round the world, Roger Stephens still languishes in jail.

Stephens was shuffled into Gwinnett Superior Court in a forest-green jumpsuit Friday, where he entered a plea of not guilty to a count of

first-degree child cruelty.

A couple minutes later, he was back in the custody of deputies, en route to the Gwinnett County Jail, where he's been held since Aug. 31.

The 61-year-old was denied bond on the felony charge in September. The matter was not discussed during Friday's brief arraignment. His attorney is moving to prosecute the case speedily.

Police arrested Stephens, of Stone Mountain, on charges he slapped a 2-year-old several times in the face as she stood beside her mother in a Wal-Mart on Rockbridge Road. The case gained infamy as regional media caught wind of the unusual allegations.

Stephens had never met the victim or her mother, but warned, "If you don't shut that baby up, I'll shut her up for you," authorities said.

The child's cries persisted, and Stephens confronted the pair in a frozen foods section, slapped the girl and said: "See, I told you I would shut her up," according to a police report. He was cornered by another shopper and arrested.

The child's injuries weren't serious. But the allegations were reported at news outlets around the world, from New York to New Zealand, prompting a firestorm of angry reader feedback.

Stephens' attorney, Melvin Nash, filed a speedy trail demand last month. A judge later ordered some documents in his case file sealed.

In an early interview with the Daily Post, the child's mother said she'd forgiven Stephens.