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Courts & Trials

Michigan Dad Sentenced for Slapping Daughter After Allegedly Trying to Perform Exorcism on Her

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A Michigan man has been sentenced to prison on Thursday for third-degree domestic violence for slapping his 18-year-old daughter not long after, she alleged, he and other relatives attempted to perform an exorcism on her.

Judge Miriam Cavanaugh ordered William Ellis Watt to spend one to 10 years in prison for slapping his daughter after he confronted her about eating his food.

That altercation came hours after Watt and others attempted an exorcism on her, the daughter later claimed to authorities. (No charges were brought in connection with the alleged exorcism.) He was convicted in May, following a bench trial, and has since appealed, authorities said.

While Watt reportedly continued to protest his innocence — dismissing the abuse as the fiction of an “arrogant, deceitful teen” — authorities say he has a “long history” of “essentially assaulting family members.”

“He clearly has earned a period of incarceration,” prosecuting attorney William Vailliencort tells PEOPLE. “To have an assaultive criminal record going back 10 years, including one prior prison commitment and a number of felony convictions — it is serious.”

Watt has convictions for threatening to kill his wife and choking his 16 year-old son, Valliencourt says.

His defense attorney could not be reached for comment.

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William Ellis Watt
Livingston County Jail

The case involving his daughter came to light on Sept. 25, after she called the sheriff’s office in Livingston County, Michigan, where she lived.

According to a police report obtained by PEOPLE, the teen alleged to authorities that she was sitting on the couch watching TV the Saturday morning before when her father and two other relatives announced they were going to be performing an exorcism on her.

The family members “got very close to her person while chanting ‘the power of Christ compels you,’ ” the report alleges, citing the daughter’s account.

The teen alleged that a relative took some plaster, which they were using to fix a wall, and put it on her face.

“She stated that her family does believe that she is possessed by the devil,” according to the report.

The teen said that later that night, she was in the kitchen eating food she had bought earlier when her father confronted her about eating his food — and then slapped her across the face.

He also “grabbed her by the cheeks” for talking back to him, the report states. The teen called a friend to pick her up and then alerted authorities.

During his sentencing, Watt told the court, “I stand my ground, I’m innocent,” according to the Livingston Daily.

The judge took a different view, however.

“You beat up your family,” she said, according to the paper. “When are you going to learn?”

“You can’t put your hands on your adult children. You don’t get to kick around your kids because they’re your kids,” the judge added. “You don’t get to grab her neck or slap her in the face.”