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RINGGOLD, Ga. - A North Georgia man accused of neglecting his father while cashing his Social Security checks told the court Monday morning that he is guilty - though hours later he said the opposite.

Danny Hoss Roden, 49, agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and will now be on probation for 20 years after pleading guilty to false imprisonment, burglary, terroristic threats and three counts of abuse of an elderly person.

In exchange, Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt agreed to drop a kidnapping charge, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Minutes before Roden pleaded guilty Monday, a group of potential jurors sat in a Catoosa County courtroom, waiting for the Roden trial to begin. Assistant Public Defender Sean Lowe asked the group questions that related to the case to determine which men and women could be impartial.

Then, Superior Court Judge Brian House suggested the lawyers and potential jurors take a break. Most people in the courtroom exited. When they came back, House told them that Roden had decided to plead guilty instead of going to trial.

Arnt said he let Roden plead in part because the victim in the case is dead. James Roden died in January 2013 at age 74.

"Normally I wouldn't accept [a plea like that]," Arnt said. "But when you're dealing with elder abuse cases, the longer it goes on, the harder it is for the state."

A grand jury indicted Roden and his wife, Geneva Marie Roden, in August 2011 after a neighbor complained that the couple was abusing James Roden, who was living with them. Arnt said the couple cashed his Social Security checks but didn't spend the money to care for him. He said they kept their mailbox locked so James Roden couldn't get his money.

When the couple's house lost power in the summer of 2011, Arnt said, they left James Roden behind while they lived somewhere else. James Roden was 72 at the time. Arnt said James' brother, Charles Roden, took him in.

At that point, neighbors told police, Danny Roden went to his uncle's house, grabbed James Roden and tried to drag his father into his car, to bring him back home. Arnt said Danny Roden later told police that he was cashing his father's Social Security checks, left him in a house without power and threatened a neighbor who saw the abuse.

On Monday afternoon, hours after pleading guilty to these charges, Danny Roden disputed Arnt's claims. He said he and his wife spent his father's Social Security checks on him. He said they bought him clothes and food.

He also denied leaving his father in the home without power. He said that, yes, his home lost power. But when it did, he said, he called Charles Roden and told his uncle to take care of his father until he could get the power back.

Danny Roden said he only pleaded guilty on Monday because House would not push the case back to a later date, which Roden says would give him time to hire an attorney instead of working with the public defender's office.

"The only reason I took the plea is because I have 30 days to take the plea back," Roden said. "I'm going to hire me an attorney. I'm not guilty."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.

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