Man indicted in abuse of boy, woman

March 27, 2002|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit Court grand jury indicted a 32-year-old West Baltimore man yesterday on child abuse and domestic violence charges in a case city prosecutors hailed as a first in their efforts to link such cases whenever possible.

Michael M. Cole, who stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 260 pounds, is charged with five counts of first-degree assault and six counts of child abuse against a 3-year-old boy. He also is charged with one count of domestic violence against the boy's mother. If convicted of all charges, he could face a sentence of 225 years in prison.

Keeping the domestic violence and child abuse charges together represents a new tactic in dealing with abuse cases and is part of a national trend, prosecutors said. Previously, related cases of child abuse and domestic violence were handled by separate prosecutors and different courts. The new approach, called "vertical prosecution," assigns all the cases to one prosecutor.

"This way, we have a more coherent view of what the defendant is doing," said Julie Drake, assistant state's attorney and chief of the child abuse unit. "Our goal is to develop a package of charges against a defendant. That way, we're dealing with everything a defendant is doing in terms of family violence."

Police learned about the case early on Feb. 26, after the boy's 22-year-old mother brought him to Mercy Medical Center downtown. Charging documents indicate the mother had seen bruises on her son's face and body and noticed that he walked bent over and was limping. When she asked the boy who had done this to him, the child replied, "Michael," the documents said.

An examination at Mercy revealed the boy had two fractured left ribs, a fractured right foot, a bruise covering half of his face, a bruised liver and severe lacerations around his genitals. There also were indications that three right ribs had been fractured earlier. The child was later admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital, the documents showed.

At police headquarters, the mother told investigators she had seen Cole punch the child as the boy begged him to stop, according to charging documents. A cord or wire was wrapped around the boy's genitals and pulled, the mother told investigators. Cole is being held without bail at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

"He did not acknowledge doing all that he was charged with. He acknowledged beating the child and roughhousing with the child," said Drake. "His explanation was that he was trying to toughen the child up."

Cole moved into the family's home in late December, said Drake. He has twin 4-month-old sons by the mother, but is not the father of the injured child.

All of the children are in the care of the Department of Social Services. The agency and Juvenile Court officials will decide whether to return them to their mother, said Drake. The 3-year-old is recovering from his wounds.

"Physically, I'm told he's doing better," said Drake. "Emotionally, I'm told he has a long row to hoe."

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