CLEARFIELD – A man accused of assaulting a two-year-old girl after she shoved a plate of food away while he was trying to feed her had all charges returned to court after a preliminary hearing Wednesday at the Clearfield County Jail.
Robert J. Misho, 28, of Clearfield was initially charged with aggravated assault/victim less than 13 years and defendant 18 years or older; simple assault; recklessly endangering another person; and endangering the welfare of children. Prior to the hearing, the commonwealth added the charge of aggravated assault/victim less than 6 years and defendant 18 years or older.
Assistant District Attorney Warren B. Mikesell II, Esq. presented the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Misho was represented by defense attorney David Seth Zuckerman, Esq. of Pittsburgh. Magisterial District Judge Jerome Nevling presided over the hearing.
The alleged victim’s mother testified first for the commonwealth. On April 21, when she came home from work around 4 p.m., Misho and the alleged victim were napping in her bedroom. When she was in the shower she heard the alleged victim crying but wasn’t alarmed by it.
When she finished in the bathroom, she went to check on the alleged victim who was now in her own bedroom. She observed a bruise at the top of the alleged victim’s forehead. She said Misho admitted he’d slapped the alleged victim who then fell into the crib.
The mother said Misho didn’t want her to take the alleged victim to the hospital for medical attention. She said he was afraid to go to jail. The mother said they decided to monitor the alleged victim overnight; the next morning, she observed the bruising had worsened and she decided to take the alleged victim to the hospital.
She said Misho stayed at home and was “freaked out” by the situation. She said when Misho observed the bruising he said that he was sorry and she should take the alleged victim to the hospital.
During her testimony, the mother admitted that while at the hospital, she told differing stories to police. In one account of the incident, she claimed that the alleged victim fell into the crib while playing peekaboo. In another account, she claimed that the alleged victim fell down the porch steps and hit her head.
She said that when asked to provide a statement at the police station, she recanted her stories from the hospital until officers asked for the truth. At that point, she said that Misho had admitted to slapping the alleged victim and causing her injuries.
A caseworker with Clearfield County Children & Youth Services testified about her investigation into the alleged child abuse report that she received on April 22. When she arrived at the hospital she observed the alleged victim’s injuries, including bruising to her face and head areas.
At the hospital, she spoke to the mother who told her the alleged victim’s injuries were from her falling down the porch steps the night before. While asking follow-up questions, the caseworker said the mother told her that she didn’t abuse her child.
The caseworker said she asked to speak with Misho, who wasn’t at the hospital. She said the mother told her that he was at home but wouldn’t be there. Instead, she told the caseworker that Misho would be at his parents’ residence; however, she didn’t have their address.
The caseworker said she discussed the alleged victim’s injuries with the emergency room doctor. She said they didn’t believe that the alleged victim’s injuries were from her falling down porch steps. As a result, the caseworker contacted her supervisor and then County Control to dispatch police to the hospital.
She said that the alleged victim was transferred to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville for further evaluation to ensure there weren’t any underlying injuries. When presented with the medical report, she said that the doctor at Geisinger had identified 72 different bruises on the alleged victim.
The caseworker said the doctor indicated that based upon the alleged victim’s injuries, it was a beating inflicted by an adult. The caseworker said when she spoke to the doctor he believed that the alleged victim was “very lucky,” as her injuries could have been life-threatening.
On April 23, she went to Geisinger and took pictures of the alleged victim at the time of her discharge. She said the alleged victim’s injuries definitely looked worse than the day before when she was at the emergency room at the Clearfield Penn Highlands Hospital.
On or around May 4, the caseworker said she had contact with the alleged victim’s mother. At that time, she said the mother told her that Misho slapped the alleged victim on April 21; however, it was only an accident.
According to testimony from Officer Nathan Curry, Clearfield Borough police were dispatched for an alleged assault victim who was two years old at the Clearfield Penn Highlands Hospital emergency room on the morning of April 22.
At the hospital, Curry observed that the alleged victim had a large bruise at the top of her forehead, which extended from the right to left temple. He observed red marks with bruising on the left side of the alleged victim’s cheek area and her left ear. Curry also observed the alleged victim had red marks and bruising to the right side of her head.
Curry spoke with the mother at the hospital. She told him that the alleged victim was playing inside the night before when she fell into the side of her crib. Curry said she later told him that she and Misho were outside and the alleged victim fell from the back porch area of the residence.
Curry said that at an interview at the police station, the mother recanted the same stories that she had while at the hospital. However, he said she eventually told him that Misho had slapped the alleged victim.
In an interview, Curry said Misho quickly admitted to cracking the alleged victim with the back of his hand. He described Misho as very upset and disgusted with himself, commenting that “I deserve to rot in hell for this.”
When Curry showed a photograph of the alleged victim’s injuries, he said Misho told him, “I own that.” He said Misho demonstrated the motion of his hand moving away from his body and backhanding the alleged victim who then struck the crib, wall and floor.
Curry said Misho told him he didn’t realize his own strength and acted impulsively when the alleged victim shoved her plate of food away while he was trying to feed her. He said Misho was very concerned about the severity of the alleged victim’s injuries, stating at one point he loved that girl.
In closing, Zuckerman argued that this was a “single-strike” case, and there wasn’t any evidence that Misho caused injuries throughout the alleged victim’s body. He also argued that Misho neither caused nor intended to cause serious bodily injury.
Zuckerman said slapping is not the equivalent of trying to kill. He said if Misho really wanted to, he could have killed the alleged victim. Instead, he said that Misho was very contrite and reported to police.
Mikesell countered, saying he didn’t believe there was one person in the hearing room who believed Misho only struck the alleged victim one time. He pointed out that the alleged victim’s mother also hasn’t been completely truthful in this case.
Mikesell called attention to medical reports that indicated the alleged victim had been hit multiple times. He said the commonwealth had clearly met its burden and he asked for an increase in Misho’s bail due to the severe nature of the case.
In regards to bail, Zuckerman argued that it was to secure Misho’s appearance at future court proceedings for the case and to protect the community. He asked for non-monetary bail with conditions, saying Misho would be staying with his parents and not a flight risk.
Mikesell pointed out that Misho had a prior record for simple assault and would be a risk to the community. He said there wouldn’t be any way to guarantee that Misho wouldn’t be involved in another assault incident.
In ruling on the case, Nevling said he was familiar with the single-strike cases. However, in considering the testimony and evidence in this case, he relied upon the medical report from Geisinger Medical Center that listed numerous bruises about the alleged victim’s face, head and body.
Nevling then returned all charges to the Court of Common Pleas. On the matter of bail, he realized it was not a punishment, which he said that he sticks by. Nevling said that due to the aggravating circumstances of the case, he was increasing Misho’s bail to $100,000 monetary.