Mother gets 3 1/2 years in assault case

Date: 2003-04-12

Author: Poughkeepsie Journal
Larry Fisher-Hertz

A Dutchess County woman who admitted assaulting her 18-month-old adopted son was sentenced Friday to 3 1/2 years in state prison.

Jennie Malak, 51, stood quietly beside her attorney, D. James O'Neil, as Judge Gerald V. Hayes imposed the prison term in a 15-minute proceeding in the county courthouse in downtown Poughkeepsie.

Malak told the judge she was sorry for what she had done but insisted she never meant to harm the child.

''I loved my children and did not intend to hurt this baby,'' she said. ''But it is something I assume responsibility for.''

Malak, who has received treatment for mental illness over the past decade, checked into a psychiatric hospital following the July 17, 2001 attack on the child at her home in Hyde Park. After being examined by court-appointed psychiatrists, she was found competent to stand trial.

Malak was charged after a physician at Albany Medical Center and a forensic pathologist who examined the boy concluded the baby's injuries were not consistent with a fall, as Malak had claimed.

Crime admitted

Under questioning from the judge Friday, Malak acknowledged she had admitted on Feb. 7 that she assaulted xxxx [name removed for reasons of privacy], also known as xxxx [name removed for reasons of privacy]  -- a Guatemalan child whom Malak and her now-estranged husband, pediatrician Dr. Joseph Malak, adopted about nine months earlier.

Malak entered a guilty plea Feb. 7 to second-degree assault, a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The boy sustained multiple head injuries and was hospitalized for several months following the assault. He is now living at home with his adoptive father, where he is still recovering from various physical and neurological injuries.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Kristine Hawlk said doctors are not sure the boy will ever recover fully.

As he imposed the sentence, Hayes noted Malak was a licensed practical nurse who ''should have been more aware'' of how to take care of children.

''I read the pre-sentence report and it says you were angry about something that day and you took out your anger on this child,'' the judge said.

Prosecutor comments

In recommending a prison term for the crime, Hawlk said she believed Malak must be held accountable for what she did.

''Joey Malak is unable to speak for himself, your honor,'' Hawlk told the judge. ''He was adopted and came here from Guatemala with the understanding that he would have a better life.''

In addition to the prison term, Malak will be required to pay $3,000 toward the child's medical expenses.

Hawlk praised state police Senior Investigator Richard Nesbitt and Child Protective Services Investigator David Garcia for gathering evidence that led to Malak's conviction.

O'Neil described his client's actions as ''terrible, tragic, inexcusable.'' But he said he believed her estranged husband should share at least some of the blame because he was aware of his wife's mental condition when the couple decided to adopt the child.

Joseph Malak, who is employed at St. Francis Hospital, could not be reached for comment Friday.

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