Doc's wife gets 3-1/2 years in prison for beating child

Date: 2003-04-12
Source: Daily Freeman

Doc's wife gets 3-1/2 years in prison for beating child
Published: Saturday, April 12, 2003

By Patricia Doxsey

POUGHKEEPSIE - The wife of a local pediatrician was sentenced on Friday to 3-1/2 years in state prison for severely beating her 18-month-old adopted son in 2001.

But in proceedings before Dutchess County Judge Gerald Hayes, Jeannie Malak and her attorney, D. James O'Neil, said her husband, Dr. Joseph Malak, had to share the blame for what happened to xxxx [name removed for reasons of privacy], who is now 3 years old.

Mrs. Malak, 51, pleaded guilty in February to assault, admitting she caused the injuries to her adopted son that left the child physically and mentally handicapped.

At her sentencing, Mrs. Malak, who prosecutors say had been treated since the early 1990s for psychiatric disorders and originally was found incompetent to stand trial, said her husband formulated a plan to forge a letter from a doctor she had been seeing for psychiatric problems, attesting that she was mentally fit to adopt the children.

"He formed the letter," Mrs. Malak said in court. "I went along with it."

"Dr. Malak lived with Jeannie Malak for many years and knew her psychiatric condition and went along ... with the forgery," O'Neil said. That complicity, he said, was, "in effect, putting the children in the hands of someone so unbalanced."

Mrs. Malak also said the two children the couple adopted and who live with Dr. Malak still could be at risk.

"I am not the only one with emotional problems," she told the court. "Please watch and oversee these children, because he's a very sick person."

Dr. Malak could not be reached for comment Friday. A secretary at his pediatric practice said the doctor was not in, and there is no home listing for him in the local phone book.

The Malaks adopted xxxx [name removed for reasons of privacy] and a little girl, who is about a month older than her adopted brother, from Guatemala as infants.

Authorities say that on July 17, 2001, Mrs. Malak, then a Hyde Park resident, brought Joseph Jr. to her husband's pediatric facility at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, saying the boy had fallen down the carpeted basement stairs in the family's home.

Dr. Malak carried Joseph Jr. to the emergency room, and the child was flown by helicopter to Albany Medical Center and placed in the Critical Care Unit.

Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Kristine Hawlk said the child was "covered" with bruises but that authorities don't know for certain what happened that day.

"I don't think we'll ever now exactly what happened, what she did to him," Hawlk said. "We do know he was covered with bruises. There were bruises all over his body."

Hawlk said Joseph Jr. cannot walk without assistance, has a limited ability to communicate and is mentally retarded as a result of the injuries inflicted on him.

Mrs. Malak said she doesn't know how she injured the child.

"I love these children," she said. "I did not intentionally hurt this baby. I don't know what happened."

In handing down his sentence, Hayes said Mrs. Malak's psychiatric problems notwithstanding, as a mother (Mrs. Malak also has an adult son) and as a licensed pratical nurse, she should have been aware of the consequences of her actions.

"You were angry ... and you took it out on the baby," the judge said.

Hayes also ordered Mrs. Malak to pay $3,000 toward Joseph Jr.'s medical treatment within six months of her release from prison.


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