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Monday Mar. 4, 2002


Wisconsin mother found guilty of treating her 9-year-old daughter as a virtual slave

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - The mother of a 9-year-old girl faces the possibility of more than 200 years in prison for treating her daughter as a virtual slave - beating her for months because she couldn't clean or cook properly.

A jury on Friday found Olga Jaramillo, 27, guilty of 17 criminal charges, including 10 counts of child abuse and three counts of false imprisonment.

The woman showed little reaction when told of the verdicts by a Spanish language court interpreter.

"Cats and dogs are treated with more respect and dignity than (Jaramillo) treated her daughter," Assistant District Attorney Mary Ellen Karst said in her closing argument.

Authorities said the abuse occurred from October 2000, after the girl moved from Mexico to live with her mother in Madison, to April 9, 2001, when police found the child jammed under a bed, her body full of bruises.

The child, now in foster care, testified that she was tied up, beaten with a belt and a hanger, choked, slapped, pinched, stabbed with a pencil and burned with a hot pan.

Much of the punishment, she said, was because she couldn't cook or clean properly.

Jaramillo could face more than 200 years in prison at sentencing.

Jaramillo's attorney, Ron Benavides, argued it was the mother's boyfriend, Mauro Lopez, who was responsible for the abuse. Lopez, 36, pleaded no contest to 11 charges, including seven counts of child abuse, and is awaiting sentencing.

School board in plagiarism dispute in Kansas accused of violating open meetings law

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A school board that intervened after a teacher failed several students for plagiarizing a botany class assignment has been accused of violating the state's open meetings law.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic filed a civil petition Thursday against all seven members of the school board in Piper, Kan., accusing each of five counts of illegally discussing the plagiarism incident behind closed doors.

Each count carries a fine of up to $500.

In December, Christine Pelton failed 28 of the 118 students in her sophomore botany class at Piper High School after she determined they'd plagiarized a project worth half their grade.

When some parents complained, the school board told Pelton to reduce the penalty. The teacher resigned in protest.

The petition filed Thursday accused the board of meeting illegally twice on Dec. 11. Kansas law requires governing bodies of public organizations to meet in open session except under specifically defined circumstances.

Louis Clothier, the school board attorney, said he is convinced the board did not violate the law.

The board maintains that it went into closed session to protect the privacy of students and non-elected personnel, one of the exceptions provided by the law. But Tomasic said the board did not discuss any particular students or personnel during its closed sessions.

The petition said the board also violated the law by agreeing the grades should be changed without taking a public vote.

City of Benson found negligent in lawsuit

Associated Press

TUCSON - A jury awarded $1.1 million to two children of a man who died after a Benson police officer used a choke hold while trying to arrest him.

The Cochise County panel found the city of Benson negligent in the death of truck driver Eugene Oscielowski, 48.

Officer John Ward, who said he punched Oscielowski four times in the eye before applying the neck hold in October 1998, was not held responsible for excessive use of force.

Ward learned the hold in judo class, not in his police training.

Former Benson Police Chief George McMinimy testified that he knew the carotid neck hold had been linked to deaths since 1982 but the department had established no policy on its use.

In a deposition given hours after the encounter, Ward said he used the neck hold twice before Oscielowski fell unconscious.

The truck driver never regained consciousness and died after he was disconnected from life support at his family's request.

An autopsy concluded the death was a homicide due to asphyxiation, caused in part by neck compression.

James Abraham, Benson's attorney, tried to convince the jury that Oscielowski's chronic use of ephedrine, an over-the-counter medication used for weight reduction and treating asthma, was the cause of his death.

Abraham argued the ephedrine overdose caused Oscielowski to exhibit bizarre and paranoid behavior that led to death when Oscielowski resisted attempts by two Benson police officers to arrest him.

Police said Oscielowski was trying to break into a trailer at a Benson RV park.

Benson's current police chief, Glenn Nichols, said the neck hold is now prohibited by department policy.



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