COVINGTON, Ky. – A former child care worker facing criminal abuse charges and the attorneys who worked out a plea deal for her got a stern rebuke from a Kenton County judge Thursday.
Judge Kenneth Easterling rejected an Alford Plea for Anne Marie Ogonek, who worked at Rainbow Child Care in Edgewood, Kentucky. A WCPO I-Team investigation of Ogonek’s case uncovered state sanctions against six Rainbow Child Care locations in Northern Kentucky.
“To come before this court and say nothing is going to happen, I’m going to get probated and I didn’t do anything. I don’t accept that,” Easterling told Ogonek as she stood before the bench. “These are violent offenses. The plea is rejected.”
An Alford Plea would have allowed Ogonek to maintain her innocence while admitting the prosecution has significant evidence against her.
“There’s an absence of acceptance of responsibility with an Alford Plea,” Easterling said. “This is a very serious charge for people, kids that are defenseless … defenseless. This court is going to stand up and defend those who can’t defend themselves.”
After the attorneys told the judge they had agreed to a plea, Easterling scolded them, too, partly for not including him in the negotiations.
“You don’t have an agreement with me and that’s the problem,” the judge said. “I’m not comfortable with probation and I’m not comfortable with her not pleading straight up.
"Let me make myself very clear. This court is not and has not been involved with the plea negotiations of this case.
"Used to be, when we practiced law, we would approach the court in some cases that would have some media interest and we would resolve the case with the court’s consent to approve our direction. That's been lacking in this case.
"You're asking me to put my stamp of approval on this case. I’m saying no. I’m not going to.”
A police detective’s complaint accused Ogonek of pushing children, yanking them by their arms and covering a 14-month-old boy’s face with a blanket to make him sleep. Video footage showed Ogonek "forced him to stay laying (sic) down with the blanket covering his head and face by holding down with her hand on the back of his head and neck area," Edgewood Det. Julie Marzheuser said.
The detective also wrote that when the boy tried to move, Ogonek pulled his legs out from under him.
Marzheuser said she reviewed eight days of surveillance footage and saw "numerous other incidents" involving Ogonek, the 14-month-old boy and several other toddlers.
The detective said footage showed Ogonek "roughly grabbing and pulling the children by one arm/hand across the room, aggressively flipping the children over on their mats by their arms and legs, roughly grabbing and pulling them into 'time out' and leaving them in 'time out' for an excessive period of time" including one child left for an hour and 10 minutes.
After refusing the plea, Easterling called the bench trial to begin Thursday only to discover he couldn’t proceed.
“Judge, I called off all witnesses in anticipation of the plea,” Assistant Kenton County Attorney Jason Reed said.
“We’ll move to dismiss,” said the defense.
“Overruled,” said the judge.
Easterling set a bench trial for Sept. 28.
In a letter sent to parents, Rainbow Child Care regional manager Danielle Corbin updated families about the ongoing legal proceedings and said the organization was committed to ensuring the future safety of the children in its care.
"The safety of the children in our care, and the trust and relationships we have with our children, have always been our top priority," she wrote. "We continue to be here to answer questions you may have and work to remain open and transparent to all appropriate entities, especially our families. We will continue to share information as it is available to us."