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Mother receives 8 years for  allowing child to be beaten

Cathleen Koch

Cathleen Koch

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:27AM

Cathleen Koch carried her young son into the Kane County Judicial Center Wednesday morning for the conclusion of sentencing on charges connected to the 2010 beating of her daughter.

Minutes after being sentenced to eight years in prison for failing to protect the now almost 4-year-old girl from the brutal attack inside a St. Charles motel room, Koch gave her 10-month-old son a tearful hug and kiss goodbye before a sheriff’s deputy took her away in handcuffs.

The scene presented a contradiction to repeated descriptions of Koch as a selfish and uncaring mother to her daughter. Even Circuit Judge Timothy Sheldon commented on Koch’s apparent me-first attitude.

“She has never shown this court that she has accepted any responsibility,” Sheldon said. “She failed to protect her child.”

Koch pleaded guilty earlier this year to aggravated domestic battery, child endangerment and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors said Koch repeatedly failed to intervene on her daughter’s behalf as it became apparent the girl had been abused by Koch’s boyfriend, James Cooper. Koch also lied about Cooper to police investigating the attack.

Cooper is serving a 15-year prison term for aggravated battery to a child. He punched the girl 10 times and then threw her onto a bed causing injuries so severe — including traumatic brain damage — that she will never be able to live independently.

In a statement to Sheldon, Koch cried as she called her daughter “a miracle child” for making the progress she has over the last two years. In earlier testimony, the girl’s pediatrician said the girl has a “limited” outlook because of cognitive and physical deficiencies caused by the death of tissue on her brain’s left side.

Koch said she is “deeply sorry for what happened to my daughter” and that it was the “worst day ever watching my daughter fighting for her life” in the hospital.

“I look forward to the day that I can see (the girl) and give her a hug and a kiss,” Koch offered. “What scares me more (than jail) is to not be with my children.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Cullen offered a lengthy and passionate argument in which he asked for Koch to be sent to prison for 10 to 14 years. Cullen offered repeated examples of Koch’s failure to keep the girl from Cooper, who reportedly first abused the child two months before the motel room beating. In particular, Cullen pointed to a series of text messages and other actions in the 24 hours prior to the attack. The night before, Cooper took the girl on a late-night heroin run that lasted two hours, Cullen said.

Koch didn’t call police during that time, despite feeling uneasy about Cooper, who had struck her earlier in the evening. Koch did, however, send her husband the first of several messages telling him to immediately come get her and the girl if Koch texted “911,” Cullen said. A final message, sent 26 minutes before the attack and her call to police, simply stated, “He’s getting mad.”

“She could have called 911 any time,” Cullen emphasized. “She was texting ... Why not call 911?”

Koch’s attorney, Elizabeth Lovig, in her call for Koch to receive probation, said the apparent inaction was a result of Koch being a domestic violence victim at the hands of Cooper. Koch also did not know Cooper was capable of the vicious beating, which would nullify her ability to protect her daughter from Cooper’s acts, the attorney said.

“Never in her wildest dreams would she imagine he would nearly kill her daughter,” Lovig said. “There are two children better served by (Koch) on probation.”

The girl is currently in her custody of her father, David, who immediately left the courtroom after the sentence was announced. Koch’s son is in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, but lives with Koch’s mother and stepfather. Koch, who also lived with them, has supervised visitation rights with the boy.

Koch will be required to serve at least 85 percent of her sentence before being placed on parole.

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