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INJURY TO CHILD UNDER 15 – 3RD DEGREE FELONY

Case Conclusion Date: 12.02.2010

Practice Area: Criminal Defense

Outcome: Dismissed

Description: This case involved emotionally-disturbed – yet manipulative – stepchildren, (which we had to sufficiently prove), a nasty divorce and ongoing custody proceedings, and a jealous, scheming ex-wife. The Complainant was Laura’s stepdaughter, who told her things like, “I don’t like you; I want my mom and dad back together.” All of this was a set-up for disaster when, while Christmas shopping in the mall in 2009, the seven-year-old Complainant/stepdaughter went to the bathroom on herself. Laura took her into the store bathroom to clean her up and gave her a spanking: she had a frequent history of acting out and doing such things on purpose when she didn’t get her way. The other stepdaughter overheard the crying during the spanking and both told their mother Laura had slammed her face into the bathroom wall. A bruise appeared later on Complainant’s cheek the size of a quarter of which the prosecution claimed they possessed “indisutable photographic evidence”. The children told CPS Laura put make-up on her face to cover it the same day. Laura admitted to the makeup – but not for camouflage. Complainant’s younger sister, with a known school record for aggression, had hit her in the car on the way home after the bathroom episode – and we had witnesses to this as well – but we weren’t out of the woods yet. The 3 stepchildren lied to police detectives and to CPS in several taped interviews, saying Laura had told them to “beat each other up”, so whether Laura inflicted the wound or the sibling had – either way it was Laura’s fault. Overall, there were just too many disturbing lies told by the stepchildren for a facile resolution of this case. We struggled valiantly nevertheless to overcome them all. We supoenaed surveillance video from the store which provided clear evidence only that Laura and Complainant entered and exited the bathroom and that Complainant’s hand was hovering near her face as they exited. The DA’s exclaimed, “There; she’s rubbing her bruised cheek!“ We had several eyewitnesses to the event, including one of Laura’s own children, who testified that her hand went to her face to wipe away tears with a tissue after her deserved spanking – not to rub her “smashed face”. Due to the lies, the machinations of the mother over visitation, the ongoing custody proceedings in family court, and the number of witnesses involved, this complex case lasted over a year. In our policy of omitting nothing that could help our defense, we filed Briefs on a No Contact Order, worked with Amended Conditions of Bond issues, a civil court Protective Order, obtained certified copies of the divorce and custody proceedings in preparation for Trial, filed Evidence, Witness and Expert Disclosures, Discovery and a slough of other Trial Motions. The mother denied visitation during the pendency of the case and so we had to work with the family and criminal law courts to obtain Temporary Orders for Visitation; unstoppable, she then tried to get CPS to revoke vistation on the basis of her children’s lies… A major breakthrough in the case happened when Mr. Haggard shrewdly advised Laura’s husband to bring the stepchildren to our office and successfully and ethically obtained written confessions from them which we planned to use in Court in admissible form. We thought we had victory in our hip pocket when, after we arranged a meeting between prosecutors and the Complainant, the Complainant reverted to her former lies; the DA’s quite naturally said it had been coerced. Weakened but not prostrated, we continued the fight continued until better heads prevailed in the DA’s office who declined to go against Mr. Haggard at Trial fearing his cross-examination would give the lie to the lies.

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