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All of the money they had saved for a house went to the attorneys, they say. Even then, they had to borrow thousands from his parents and still couldn't pay Rivkind for all the work he did. Phalen did not charge for his time on the case, because he considered it so outrageous.

Last month, Pedigo, his wife and their families sat through his three-day trial. The jury was given the choice of convicting him of child abuse, aggravated assault or nothing.

They opted for nothing.
Acquitting on the child abuse charge took only minutes, one member of the jury said. The aggravated assault charge was discussed for about an hour before the jurors acquitted on it, too.

"We more or less couldn't understand how it did come to be a felony charge," the juror in Pedigo's case said. "We didn't see that Jason Pedigo intended to hurt the boy. He only intended to stop the boy and take him to his parents.

"I probably would have reacted very similar to what he did, which is what most normal people would have done."
Pedigo walked out of the courthouse with a feeling of relief, a sense that he has his life back--a feeling that Cheryl Johnson is still dreaming of.

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David Pasztor