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Doctors say 12-year-old Louie Guerrero was beaten at least 100 times with a tree branch, and nearly died from injuries inflicted on him by a pair of ministers who say they were punishing him for misbehaving in Bible class.

On Friday, a Texas jury gave those fundamental Baptist pastors punishments of their own. Joshua Thompson, 23, who had been charged with using a branch to repeatedly strike Louie in the July 3, 2002 incident was sentenced to 26 years in prison. He had been convicted of injury to a child, and aggravated assault.

His twin brother, Caleb Thompson, accused of holding Louie down during the beating, was convicted on the same charges and received a sentence of 14 years to life.

A Week in Intensive Care

During their trial, the brothers admitted to beating the boy, but said Louie's parents gave them permission to discipline their unruly son, who was part of the Spanish-speaking congregation at Capitol City Baptist Church in South Austin, Texas.

After the beating, Louie spent a week in intensive care, under threat of kidney failure. He also needed a blood transfusion. Jurors were shown photos of Louie's back side, which was covered with red and purple bruises, and blood spots from scrapes or puncture wounds.

"I don't know if I caused all of that," Joshua Thompson said during trial, as he was shown a photo depicting the badly injured backside of Louie, who was 11 at the time of the beating. "Or if I caused part of it."

But Louie's parents deny telling them they could hit their child. The ministers did express regret during the trial for their actions.

"I was totally, totally, totally wrong to take a little child and to strike them and to hurt them and to take my brother with me," Joshua Thompson said during the trial. "I was totally wrong."

But the severe sentence suggests, in the eyes of jurors, any remorse was far too little and far too late.

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