STANTON — A man awaiting trial on criminal child abuse charges has pleaded no contest to an abuse/neglect charge in a related civil case.
Samantha Slater and Benjamin Wilkins, both 26 and both of Greenville, were each charged with first-degree and second-degree child abuse of Slater’s 2-year-old daughter Brooklyn Weimer, who has been hospitalized in intensive care since March 24 with severe abdominal and brain injuries.
Montcalm County 64B District Court Judge Donald Hemingsen dismissed both criminal charges against Slater on May 16, citing a lack of evidence.
Wilkins and his defense attorney Randy Norton of Crystal parted ways on May 16. Attorney Thomas Wilson of Carson City, who is representing Wilkins in the civil case, has been appointed to defend Wilkins in the criminal case.
While awaiting the criminal trial, Wilkins is considering an offer from the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office. If he pleads guilty to second-degree child abuse and being a habitual offender second offense, the first-degree child abuse charge would be dropped and he would face up to 15 years in prison instead of the possible life sentence he is currently facing.
A civil trial was scheduled for one week from today in Montcalm County Juvenile Court to determine whether Wilkins, Slater and Slater’s ex-husband Brent Slater should have their parenting rights terminated.
However, Wilkins pleaded no contest on May 7 to the civil abuse/neglect charge. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as a guilty plea by the court.
As a result of Wilkin’s no contest plea in the civil case, the civil trial has been adjourned to give Samantha Slater’s attorney Monica Tissue-Daws of Stanton the chance to argue that Wilkins’ no contest plea should not give Juvenile Court Judge Charles Simon III the right to move forward with the parental rights trial of Samantha Slater.
In the meantime, parenting rights continue to be suspended for Samantha Slater and Wilkins, while Brent Slater is allowed to have visitation time with his 4-year-old daughter, who is under the supervision of the Department of Human Services.
Brooklyn’s biological father is currently in prison on charges unrelated to the child abuse case. Attorney Tammi Shaw of Lakeview is Brooklyn’s court-appointed advocate.