STANTON — A deadline is now looming for an accused child abuser to decide whether to accept a plea deal from the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office.
Benjamin Wilkins, 26, of Greenville, is charged with first-degree and second-degree child abuse of his girlfriend Samantha Slater’s 2-year-old daughter Brooklyn Weimer, who has been hospitalized since March 24 with severe abdominal and brain injuries.
Wilkins previously pleaded no contest to a civil abuse/neglect charge in Montcalm County Juvenile Court. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as a guilty plea by the court.
Wilkins continues to await his criminal trial while he considers 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.
On Thursday, Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause issued a deadline for Wilkins to decide whether to accept the offer. Wilkins now has until July 12 to make up his mind.
Also on Thursday, Wilkins and his attorney, Thomas Wilson, asked 8th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Hoseth Kreeger to grant a motion to allow Wilkins to be sent back to 64B District Court for a preliminary examination, which Wilkins previously waived alongside his former attorney, Randy Norton.
Wilkins and Norton parted aways soon after the waiver and Wilson, who is already Wilkins’ attorney in the civil case, was appointed Wilkins’ attorney in the criminal case.
On Thursday, Wilson argued that Wilkins should be allowed to have a preliminary examination, noting that Wilkins seemed very unsure of himself when he previously waived the examination. Wilson quoted from a May 8 article in The Daily News, which described Wilkins’ reluctance to waive the exam.
Krause argued that 64B District Court Judge Donald Hemingsen repeatedly asked Wilkins whether he wanted to permanently waive the exam and Wilkins answered in the affirmative.
Kreeger sided with Krause and denied the motion. Wilkins grimaced and threw his hands up in the air in disgust in response to the ruling.
Wilkins is currently scheduled to go to trial on the criminal charges in late September or early October — if he does not accept the plea offer.
Criminal child abuse charges against Slater were dismissed, but she continues to await a civil trial in Juvenile Court, which will determine whether she should have her parenting rights terminated. A pre-trial conference took place Thursday in Juvenile Court on the civil charges against Slater. A trial date on the civil charges has not yet been scheduled, but is expected to be scheduled soon.
Attorney Tammi Shaw of Lakeview remains Brooklyn’s court-appointed advocate.