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With a crying baby on her lap, Crystal Barnett became frustrated and, according to a Lucas County assistant prosecutor, did the unthinkable and the criminal: She pushed the child to the floor, causing a serious head injury.
Barnett, 21, of 5406 Harvest Lane pleaded no contest yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to felony child endangering. A second child-endangering charge, classified as a lower felony, will be dismissed at her sentencing Aug. 12.
Although Barnett faces up to eight years in prison, assistant prosecutors recommended a nonbinding sentence of three years to Judge Frederick McDonald as part of a plea agreement.
Assistant Prosecutor Mark Herr pointed out that Barnett was pleading to the more serious of the two alternate child-endangering charges.
He said that the charges evolved from the same event and that she could be convicted of only one.
Emergency crews responded to Barnett's home April 13 on a report of an unconscious person. The child was taken to Toledo Hospital, where it was determined she had a fractured skull and bleeding.
Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Lambdin said Barnett was babysitting her stepsister's 8-month daughter at her home at the time of the incident.
Ms. Lambdin said Barnett originally blamed her 2-year-old son for pushing the baby off a bed, then changed her story to say that she accidentally dropped the child in the kitchen while reaching into the refrigerator.
That story was changed again when Barnett admitted pushing the child off her lap, Ms. Lambdin said.
"When the baby was on her lap, she became frustrated because she was crying," she added, saying that the baby hit her head on a dresser or nightstand.
The victim's mother was not in court yesterday.
Authorities said the child is recovering and appears to have suffered no permanent damage.
Attorney Beau Harvey said his client is very grateful that the child has shown signs of a full recovery.
Mr. Harvey said his client understands that the plea agreement involves only a recommendation of a three-year sentence, and she could face more time behind bars.
Judge McDonald ordered a presentence report and an evaluation by the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center.
"The recommendation was obviously in her best interest," Mr. Harvey said of the plea. "She's very sorry for any harm caused to the child. She's taken responsibility for these acts."
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