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Defense arguments denied in W.Va. child abuse case

August 10, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A circuit judge on Monday rejected arguments Monday that a Martinsburg man accused of fracturing his 5-month-old daughter's skull in October 2008 was denied his right to a speedy trial since being indicted last year.

Alfonso F. Sanchez, 28, was indicted in February 2009 by a grand jury on one count of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of child neglect creating substantial risk of bodily injury.

In a motion hearing Monday, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh ruled that Sanchez's decision in November 2009 to enter a plea agreement, which the judge ultimately rejected in February 2010, amounted to the defendant agreeing to a continuance of the case.

Defense attorney Robin Skinner Prinz argued that the state should have tried Sanchez, who is not incarcerated, on the pending charges within three "unexcused" terms of circuit court as required by state code. Skinner noted that three terms of court (May 2009, October 2009 and February 2010) passed since her client was indicted.

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The court is currently working in the May term of court and Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Jones argued Monday that the state had until the end of the current term to conduct a trial.

Sanchez last fall agreed to plead guilty under Alford circumstances to misdemeanor counts of domestic battery and contributing to the neglect of a child, court records show.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not acknowledge guilt but admits the state has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

Consecutive one-year jail sentences would have been suspended and Sanchez would have been placed on five years of probation, according to court records.

Felony counts of child abuse causing serious bodily injury and child neglect creating substantial risk of bodily injury would have been dismissed, according to the agreement.

After reviewing a pre-plea report and considering additional information, Groh concluded the plea agreement reached was "not consistent with the public interest in the fair administration of justice," according to court records.

Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Jones has said the girl appears to have recovered from the injury, but the girl's attending physician told investigators that she could be at risk to suffer seizures later in life, according to court records.

Police have said Sanchez allegedly knocked over a chair in which his daughter was sitting and she struck her head.

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