Thomas Derrick Ross, a former street hustler who pledged two years ago to adopt a legitimate lifestyle, appeared before a D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday and entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of second-degree attempted cruelty to children.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Ross is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 28.

Ross, of the 600 block of 46th Place SE, was arrested July 12 and charged with physically abusing his 9-year-old son after whipping the child with a belt. A doctor at Children's Hospital described the injuries as "acute bruising." Ross initially was charged with cruelty to children, a felony. He was released after one night in custody.

Ross, 25, a former street crew member, played a key role in a truce that ended violent clashes between rival factions of the so-called Simple City crew that operated in Southeast Washington's Benning Heights neighborhood. Before his arrest, Ross was profiled in a Washington Post story that focused on his efforts to rebuild his life. Ross, who completed a housing management training program in June, works as a property manager for the D.C. Housing Authority.

Yesterday, as he waited to enter a plea, Ross, the father of six, sat in the back of the courtroom with his 5-year-old daughter at his side. He declined to comment on the case.

His attorney, Richard G. Morgan, of Regan Associates, characterized the case as one that grew out of what began as "a matter of discipline."

"It is the best thing," Morgan said of the plea. "People will work through the problems, and they will be better off for it."