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Judge delays Lake Geneva child abuse case

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STANLEY B. MILAM
November 23, 2012



— The case against a Lake Geneva couple facing felony charges of abusing their adopted Russian children is on hold over questions of when the incidents actually occurred.



Walworth County Judge James Carlson on Wednesday granted a defense motion to halt the proceedings pending a decision by the District 2 Court of Appeals, which could take months.



Kathleen O’Brien, 50, and her husband, Martin O’Brien, 50, are charged with multiple counts of felony child abuse and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.



The charges relate to abuses of adopted Russian children.



The O’Briens appealed a ruling that the defense could not compel one of the children to testify at the preliminary hearing.



During a hearing Wednesday, Carlson ruled on several motions challenging the 17-count complaint and information. The defense argued that the charges are vague as to when the crimes occurred and that the statute of limitations has expired on the misdemeanor charges.



Carlson said he had a problem with some of the time frames. Prosecutor Diane Donohoo said she would file clarifying charges. Carlson dismissed three counts but gave Donohoo an opportunity to correct any deficiencies.



Donohoo cited case law that gives prosecutors some leeway in cases involving child victims.



“We are dealing with young children, ongoing abuse and some of the children have been home schooled and isolated,” Donohoo said. “They simply can’t give us exact dates.”



The O’Briens adopted four sibling children from Russia in 2004. The children, two boys and two girls, now range in age from 13 to 19 years old. Social services authorities took the minor children from the O’Brien home in August 2012, according to court testimony.



Felony charges against the O’Briens include:



-- Using pepper spray on the children.



-- Stabbing one of the children in the hand with a pocketknife.



-- Inflicting a torn ear on one of the children.



-- Kneeing one of the boys in the genitals.



Misdemeanor charges include:



-- Requiring the children to eat bread off the floor.



-- Requiring the children to stand naked in front of the O’Briens’ biological children.



-- Requiring the children to stand shoeless outside in cold weather.



-- Locking the children inside a bedroom for four to five days.



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