Crime

Jury acquits mother of 8, judge finds guilt on cruelty charges

A jury acquitted a Miles Township woman charged with eight counts of reckless endangerment related to her eight children.

According to court documents and her defense attorney Steven Trialonas, Mandy Cook, 38, is also a victim and survivor of domestic violence.

On Monday, a jury found Cook not guilty on all eight misdemeanor charges. Cook’s children are between the ages 2 and 18.

The case stems from a 2014 home inspection visit from Centre County Child and Youth Services representative Andrew Stager.

Stager visited Cook’s home and documented that Cook was “standoffish,” initially refusing to allow him to enter her home, because of its hygienic condition.

Days later, CYS and state police at Rockview returned to the home, taking Cook’s children.

Charges were later filed by police, who cited garbage, dog feces and broken glass as hazards.

Cook was arraigned by District Judge Allen Sinclair on reckless endangerment and animal abuse charges months later.

Also, according to court documents, CYS initially became involved with Cook because of an abusive relationship with her husband.

“She never should have been charged. My client was assaulted by her husband and that abuse, though noticed, was overlooked. The focus instead shifted to pressing criminal charges against a mother in need,” said Trialonas.

Cook was also charged with three counts of animal cruelty.

“We accept the jury’s verdict on the endangering and are grateful that the judge found her guilty of the cruelty to animals due to lack of medical treatment over an extended period of time. We will be seeking a condition where the defendant (Cook) cannot own animals,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.

Cook has regained custody of her eight children.

This case exemplifies how difficult domestic violence cases are to deal with, but it seems to me that charging victims is an obvious misstep. Our community should help those in need, not prosecute them.

Steven Trialonas, defense attorney

“This case exemplifies how difficult domestic violence cases are to deal with, but it seems to me that charging victims is an obvious misstep. Our community should help those in need, not prosecute them,” Trialonas said.

Jalelah Ahmed: 814-231-4631, @jalelahahmed

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