CHARLESTON -- A man pleaded not guilty on Monday to a charge accusing him of harming a 5-year-old boy by hitting him with a belt.

Earl H. Criglear is accused of causing bruising and markings on the boy while they were both living at the same Mattoon residence.

Criglear, 29, for whom court records list an address in Harvey in the Chicago area, formerly of Charleston, is charged with aggravated battery, a felony offense.

Records in his case say police were called to Williams Elementary School in Mattoon on Nov. 13 because the boy showed injuries in different stages of healing.

The boy's mother was in a relationship with Criglear at the time and, when she was questioned, told police that he "lost his cool" and "took it too far" when he hit the boy, the records say.

Also according to the records, when police questioned Criglear he admitted hitting the boy with a belt.

On Monday, Criglear entered the not-guilty plea after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing on the charge.

That meant the prosecution didn't have to present evidence, which is usually police testimony about the investigation, for a judge to decide if there was sufficient reason to order the case to continue.

Coles County Public Defender Anthony Ortega, who represents Criglear, entered the plea on his behalf and also said Criglear wanted a jury trial on the charge.

Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien didn't schedule to case for trial Monday but agreed with the attorneys to set a hearing for Dec. 21 to review its status. Assistant State's Attorney Tom Bucher is prosecuting.

The charge against Criglear can normally result in a prison sentence of two to five years with a conviction, but he's eligible for twice the normal maximum because of an earlier conviction from Cook County. Prison time wouldn't be required.

Criglear is out of jail on bond and his bond requirements include no contact with the boy and that he not be within 100 feet of the boy's Mattoon residence.


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