Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Bloomfield couple pleads not guilty to child abuse charges

by Robert Ireland

September 20, 2012

ELKHORN — The Bloomfield Township couple accused of multiple counts of child abuse against their adopted children pleaded not guilty Sept. 19 to all of the charges, and their attorneys want the case dismissed.

The attorneys for Martin, 49, and Kathleen O’Brien, 50, have recently filed motions to dismiss the charges against their clients for violating their right to due process.

Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo has until Oct. 19 to respond to the motions, and a hearing is set for Nov. 21.

The O’Briens are accused of multiple acts of child abuse against their six adopted children, four of whom hail from the former Soviet Union.

Kathleen has allegedly pepper sprayed one of the children and stabbed another in the hand with a pocket knife. Martin is accused of punching one of the children in the face, choking a child and striking one of the children in the genitals with his knee. The couple also allegedly forced the children to stand on a porch naked and locked them in a room for days.

Attorney Pamela Moorshead, of Glendale, and Kathleen Stilling, of Brookfield, filed motions to dismiss the charges because, according to the motion, the state has provided vague time periods when the incidents allegedly occurred, making it difficult for the O’Briens to defend themselves.

Moorshead, who represents Kathleen O’Brien, and Stilling, who represents Martin, also argued that the charges against the O’Briens are duplicitous.

The criminal complaint that has been issued by the state for the nine felony counts reports the incidents occurred between Jan. 1, 2004, and Aug. 30, 2011. The misdemeanor counts are listed as having had occurred between May 1, 2009, and Aug. 3, 2011.

“There is simply no precedent for upholding a seven- or eight-year charging period,” the motion states.

The O’Briens attorneys are arguing that there is an “unconstitutional vagueness as to the dates of the offenses.”

“Finally, the O’Briens assert that the prosecution could have, through reasonable diligence, arrived at more definitive offense dates,” the motion states.

In an amended complaint, Donohoo included the time period that the O’Briens' attorneys objected to. However, she also included a smaller time period in parentheses.

“Either the language is unnecessary (in which case it should be stricken) or the state intends to hedge its bet by maintaining the broader charging period,” the motion for the O’Briens states.

In a motion to dismiss a charge that accuses Martin O’Brien of placing one of the children in a bin and striking the bin with a log, the attorneys argue that a more precise date could help them defend Martin.

“At trial, with a more precise time frame, the defense could also seek to prove that no signs of injury were seen in a doctor’s visit close in time to the alleged incident or to proffer an alibi relating to a business trip,” the motion states.

In another incident, after one of the children reportedly stole food, Kathleen O’Brien allegedly threw multiple loaves of frozen bread on the kitchen floor and demanded the children eat it as a punishment. All six adopted children were allegedly punished during this incident.

“All six children were alleged to have been present. Surely some narrowing of the time frame is possible, if this event occurred,” the motion states.