Father gets prison time for beating daughter

Arundel judge imposes five-year sentence for `monstrous' behavior

April 17, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A father who beat his infant daughter -- and whose son's death remains under police scrutiny -- was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday by a judge who said the severity of the beating warranted more time than state guidelines recommend.

"I am not a bad person, and I love my family," John Lee Plotner, 34, formerly of Glen Burnie, cried bitterly to Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr.

He said he beat his fussing 5-month-old daughter June 5 because he had lost his job and was under stress.

"I just want to say that I am not a monster," Plotner told the judge.

"You say you are not a monster, Mr. Plotner, but you have done a monstrous thing," Greene said.

He sentenced Plotner to the maximum prison term for child abuse, 15 years, then suspended all but five years and added five years' probation. He also ruled that Plotner could have no unsupervised contact with children, including his daughter.

The sentence put a smile on the face of Assistant State's Attorney Laura Kiessling, who sought a long prison sentence. Defense attorney Charles L. Waechter, who asked for 18 months or less of incarceration, said he probably will ask the judge to reduce the sentence after his client has served part of it.

The other baby, a boy, died when he was a few weeks old. The defendant told investigators the death was blamed on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but his wife said it was septicemia, a deadly blood disease. A police investigation into that death is not finished, Kiessling said.

Plotner pleaded guilty in February to child abuse. Last June, when he brought his daughter to her baby-sitter, he said the child had fallen. But when the baby-sitter and her husband, a county police officer, saw swelling and bruising bloom, they called detectives. Plotner returned to the house while police were there. He gave them several versions of how his daughter, Kyra, fell.

The child is with her mother in Wisconsin and has recovered from her injuries.

"This family would like to reunite," Waechter told the judge, as he asked for a short sentence. He said Plotner's wife supports him fully and that Plotner, who has had some counseling in Virginia and Wisconsin, would get additional counseling if allowed to return home.

Kiessling countered that having Plotner live unsupervised with the victim was "scary," and that the baby previously had suffered a burned lip. Social services officials in Anne Arundel closed their case because the child moved; Wisconsin social service agencies have no reason to supervise the family unless they suspect new abuse.

"Obviously, nobody is looking out for this child," Kiessling told the judge."She has no one to protect her except you."

Pub Date: 4/17/99

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