O'Briens' attorneys file motions to dismiss child abuse charges

Date: 2014-10-01

By Andrea Anderson

ELKHORN—The attorneys for a Lake Geneva couple facing multiple child abuse charges are asking for a handful of the accusations to be dismissed or modified.

Two motions to dismiss or modify a combined five charges faced by Kathleen and Martin O'Brien claim the time span prosecutors provided is too broad.

The motions were filed Monday.

The O'Briens were charged in May 2012 with several felony and misdemeanor counts of abusing their six children. Offenses ranged from making the children stand outside shoeless in the winter to spraying them with pepper spray.

The O'Briens were bound over for trial in July 2012, but the case was on hold pending an appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on a hearsay argument.

Kathleen, 52, originally was charged with four felony counts of child abuse intentionally causing harm and eight counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Martin, 51, originally was charged with six counts of felony child abuse intentionally causing harm and six counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Three of Kathleen's and all of Martin's misdemeanor charges were dismissed before September 2014, according to an amended criminal complaint and court records.

The time frames provided by prosecutors for some of the allegations are “impermissibly and unconstitutionally broad,” according to the motion filed Monday by Kathleen Stilling, Martin O'Brien's attorney.

The charges accuse Martin of kneeing a then 16-year-old in the genitals and picking up a then 15-year-old by the neck.

“The state, having seen virtually every document generated about this family over the past 10 years--a total of more than 3,500 pages--has every tool at its disposal to narrow the charging period,” Stilling wrote.

Kathleen Quinn, Kathleen O'Brien's attorney, argued the same for two allegations prosecutors say happened in a 12-month window. The charges allege Kathleen tore the ear of a then-15-year-old and hit in the hand a then-16-year-old for taking a pudding.

On Wednesday, Judge James Carlson postponed the O'Briens' arraignment until a hearing on the motions is held at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Walworth County Judicial Center.

Prosecutors have not yet filed briefs in response to the motions.

The O'Briens remain free on signature bonds.

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