Judge ‘Reluctantly’ Gives Mills Woman Probation for Child Abuse
A Natrona County District Court judge "very reluctantly" sentenced a Mills woman to probation for actions that left an infant she was babysitting with two skull fractures.
Judge Catherine Wilking sentenced Donna Gatlin to three years of supervised probation for child abuse. Gatlin previously entered an Alford Plea to the charges in April.
By entering an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but does concede that the state likely has enough evidence to obtain a conviction should the case go to trial.
For sentencing purposes, the court treats an Alford plea as a guilty plea.
At the time of the incident, the victim was 10-months old. The child is now 3-years-old and his mom said she forgives Gatlin for the incident which wasn't intentional.
Initially, Gatlin had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that called for her to complete the felony program at the Casper Re-entry Center. However, a new state law went into effect last week that prohibits Gatlin from serving at the Casper Re-entry center due to there being a low-risk that she become a repeat offender.
Gatlin will, however, still serve a three-year probation sentence.
"Were it not for the parents (testifying), I would not have accepted this agreement," Wilking said. "This was a very serious event."
The victim's mother testified that Gatlin never intentionally hurt the child and said she didn't want to see Gatlin serve prison time.
"It's been almost two years. I just want this over," the child's mother said. "There is nothing wrong with my son. He's a completely healthy, typical 3-year-old."
"I needed to hear that from you personally," Wilking replied.
When the July 2017 event took place, Gatlin said she accidentally hit the child's head on the back of a kitchen chair when she held the child away from her body to check the child's face, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.
Assistant Natrona County District Attorney Kevin Taheri noted that the child's family has been very supportive of Gatlin as the case moved through the court system. Medical professionals, however, pushed for criminal charges.
During the April change of plea hearing, Taheri said Gatlin showed no ill will toward the child and at one point even established a college fund for him.
Still, Wilking said she felt much more comfortable with Gatlin completing the CRC felony program.
"I am very reluctantly bound by this agreement," Wilking said before handing down the sentence.