Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dad pleads guilty to abusing 4-month-old son; was on probation for abusing baby's older brother and was on "supervised" visitation (Faribault, Minnesota)

Why "supervised" visitation is a stupid idea....Can't tell you how many kids are injured, killed, or kidnapped while presumably under the "supervision" of social services.

Dad is identified as JACE MICHAEL WOJTOWICZ.

Faribault father pleads guilty in child abuse case

Story Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 5:00 pm | Updated: 11:40 pm, Tue Apr 16, 2013.


A man already on probation for maliciously punishing his 5-month-old boy has pleaded guilty to a more serious charge involving that boy’s new baby brother.

Jace Michael Wojtowicz stood before Judge Christine Long on Tuesday afternoon and admitted to squeezing his 4-week-old son while he was trying to get him to stop crying in the middle of the night. He had previously admitted that he had gotten frustrated when waking up in the middle of the night to a crying infant.

On Tuesday, Wojtowicz pleaded guilty to malicious punishment of a child, a felony charge that includes great bodily harm. A gross misdemeanor count of malicious punishment of a child that includes causing substantial bodily harm was dismissed as part of a plea deal with the Rice County Attorney’s Office.

The felony charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. As part of the plea deal, Assistant Rice County Attorney Tori Stewart and defense attorney Josh Johnson made a joint recommendation that Long depart from the sentencing guidelines and order a stay of execution.

A 365-day jail sentence with work release and up to 10 years of supervised probation were also mentioned as part of the recommendation, though no decisions will be made until after a presentence investigation is completed.

Wojtowicz, 29, was arrested Feb. 13, after Faribault Police were contacted by a doctor at the Midwest Children’s Resource Center in St. Paul to report a case of child abuse, according to a criminal complaint.

The doctor told police that a 4-week-old child was brought in by Wojtowicz and his wife for an unrelated medical issue earlier that week. The doctor did an MRI scan on the baby and found blood pooling behind the brain as well as numerous fractures in the baby’s rib cage, according to the complaint.

Rice County Social Services filed a CHIPS (child in need of protection or services) petition for both children after Wojtowicz was arrested. He was soon released on bail with conditions that he have no contact with either of his children. But Rice County social workers recommended during a CHIPS hearing in early March that Wojtowicz be allowed supervised contact with his children, according to court documents. Rice County Social Services Director Mark Shaw said Wojtowicz has seen his children about twice a week since. All visits are arranged by social services, which has supervisory custody of the children. Shaw confirmed that the children’s mother has physical custody.

The department has also recommended Wojtowicz participate in individual therapy, a psych evaluation and parenting education, Shaw said. Wojtowicz’s attorney Josh Johnson said in court on Tuesday that his client had already participated in parenting and mental health assessments and was also seeing a psychiatrist for obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, anxiety and stress issues.

“My client has been quite proactive in his efforts since this incident,” Johnson told Long. “He’s working very closely with social services ... I believe it’s going in the right direction.”

Even as the criminal case is nearing resolution — sentencing is set for June 6 — the CHIPS case is ongoing, Shaw said. The case will be reviewed again in May, and then every 90 days after.

“Child safety is the whole reason for our involvement in these matters,” Shaw said. “Our main purpose is to make sure children are protected and safe, and if parents need support in doing that, we help them come up with a plan.”

A probation violation hearing was also held Tuesday regarding an earlier case involving Wojtowicz.

In May 2011, authorities were alerted by a Rice County Social Services worker who was contacted by a daycare provider who found bruises on Wojtowicz’s then-4-month-old son while changing a diaper, according to court documents.

A felony charge of malicious punishment of a child was dismissed as part of a plea agreement in November 2011, according to court records. Wojtowicz was sentenced to two years of supervised probation on Jan. 4, 2012, for malicious punishment of a child, a gross misdemeanor. A 365-day jail sentence was stayed by Judge John Cajacob.

Wojtowicz admitted to violating terms of his probation on Tuesday. He will also be sentenced in this case on June 6.