A tearful Cathleen Koch pleaded guilty Thursday to aggravated domestic battery of her 23-month-old daughter, Molly -- even though she didn't touch the child.
She was held legally accountable because she did nothing to stop James Cooper, her boyfriend, who punched Molly 10 times and threw her down on a bed.
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Kane County prosecutors dropped the more serious charge of aggravated battery of a child.
The Oct. 27, 2010 incident left Molly with severe and permanent brain damage, Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen said.
Koch, 30, of Elgin, remains free on bond until her Sept. 20 sentencing hearing. Her attorney, Liz Lovig, said Koch's husband, David Koch, has custody of Molly, and that the girl is attending a special needs preschool and relearning to talk. An order of protection prohibits Koch from seeing her daughter, and visitation is a pending issue in the couple's divorce.
Normally, aggravated domestic battery carries a possible sentence of probation to seven years in prison. But due to the "heinous" nature of the battery and "wanton cruelty" shown by Koch, she could receive an extended term of up to 14 years, Cullen said.
Lovig said the concept of a parent's legal accountability comes out of case law, not the actual wording of the law. The state did not allege that Koch aided or abetted Cooper, nor injured the child, Lovig said.
Cooper had hit Koch in the head the previous day. Lovig said after Thursday's hearing that while beating Molly, Cooper held Koch facedown on the bed by placing his knee on her back. They were living in a St. Charles motel at the time.
Lovig, a former prosecutor, said victims of domestic violence fear being killed if they try to leave.
"I think we have seen James Cooper as a very evil man," Lovig said. "In the short time she was with him, her daughter was severely injured."
Cullen said that Molly had seen a doctor 10 times from birth to March 2010. In April 2010 Koch met Cooper and they moved in together a week later. In August 2010, the girl's maternal grandmother noticed bruising on the girl's face and buttocks. Koch told police Cooper told her Molly fell. Later that year David Koch saw a bruise on the top of Molly's right ear, and pointed it out to Koch.
Besides the brain damage, Molly suffered a broken wrist, broken arms, retinal hemorrhaging, and scrapes on her upper lip and a wrist, Cullen said.