USA Today

09/23/2002 - Updated 08:46 PM ET

Mother in videotaped beating says she was upset


SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The woman caught on video beating her 4-year-old daughter in a department store parking lot will probably plead guilty and seek mercy from the court, her lawyer said Monday. Madelyne Gorman Toogood, 25, was arraigned on a felony charge of battery to a child, and a magistrate entered an innocent plea on her behalf. Her attorney, Steven Rosen, called the plea a formality and later said there was no point in trying to challenge the surveillance videotape in court.

"We will probably enter a guilty plea and throw ourselves on the mercy of the court," he said after the arraignment.

He added: "If a jury has to sit in judgment of this lady, the jury is going to come back with a guilty verdict ... I'm confronted with a videotape that shows Attila the Hun, no question about it."

Earlier Monday, a Probate Court judge ordered that Toogood's daughter, Martha, remain in foster care in the meantime, and he gave child-protection officials two weeks to recommend who should care for the girl. (Related document: Criminal Information (State of Indiana v. Toogood)

A doctor examined the girl and found no medical problems and no long-term signs of abuse, authorities said.

Toogood will get a 90-minute supervised visit with her daughter on Tuesday at a safe house. She will only get to see her daughter once or twice a week, Rosen said.

If convicted, Toogood faces up to three years in prison, though her attorney said he would try to strike a deal with prosecutors. She faces a hearing on Oct. 7.

Prosecutor Christopher Toth said the evidence against Toogood was compelling.

"Obviously jail is something you have to seriously consider in a case like this," he said.

Toogood, a mother of three, had no comment as she left court. She remained free on $5,000 bail.

"People might think I'm a monster, but I've been a mother for six years, and no harm has come to my children before this, never," Toogood told CNN earlier Monday. "I'm sorry. That's all I can say."

Toogood told reporters Sunday she hit her daughter in the head and back and pulled her hair but did not punch her. On the video of the Sept. 13 incident, which has been televised nationally, Toogood appears to make punching motions toward her daughter inside a sport utility vehicle.

Rosen said he believed the hitting took place because Martha misbehaved in the store, taking toys out of packages and wandering away, prompting store employees to page Toogood twice.

Toogood said she hopes to be reunited with her daughter and that she, her daughter, and her husband, John, plan to start parenting classes.

She said her two young sons are staying with family.

Toogood said she and her husband have been living in Mishawaka for about six months. She said they are Irish Travelers — a nomadic group that police say has been linked to fraudulent home repair.

By some estimates, 7,000 Travelers live in the United States — most in Texas and South Carolina — about 40,000 live in Ireland and England. The Travelers began migrating to the United States more than 100 years ago.

Rosen said he has told his client not to answer questions about being an Irish Traveler. He said she is proud of her culture.

"She was born in a culture and in their culture the life is to travel from community because the father, the mother had to earn a living," he said.

Charles Smith, director of the St. Joseph County Office of Family and Children, said the fact the family is part of the Irish Travelers will play a role in whether other family members get temporary custody of the girl — and whether the Toogoods regain custody.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.

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