Britney Haynes and her attorney Jason Despetorich stand before Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss during a sentencing hearing Tuesday. Also pictured is bailiff Ben Reno. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
Britney Haynes and her attorney Jason Despetorich stand before Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss during a sentencing hearing Tuesday. Also pictured is bailiff Ben Reno. (HCP Photos/Caitlin Forsha)
A Hillsboro woman found guilty of felonious assault and child endangering after a jury trial last month received the maximum sentence April 13 in Highland County Common Pleas Court.

As previously reported, Britney Haynes, 18, of Hillsboro was found guilty March 11 of felonious assault, a second-degree felony; child endangering, a second-degree felony, with a specification that the offense resulted in “serious physical harm” to her younger child; and child endangering, a third-degree felony, with a specification that the offense resulted in “serious physical harm” to her older child. The jury of six men and six women deliberated for approximately an hour and a half, after a jury trial that lasted over two days.

After the two second-degree felony charges were merged during a sentencing hearing Tuesday in Highland County Common Pleas Court, Judge Rocky Coss sentenced Haynes to a minimum of eight years on the felonious assault charge, which could be as many as 12 years under the Reagan Tokes Law; and three years on the child endangering charge, for a minimum sentence of 11 years and maximum of 15 years. The sentences will run consecutively.

At the start of Tuesday afternoon’s hearing, Coss addressed a request by defense attorney Jason Despetorich to merge count one of the indictment, the second-degree felonious assault charge, with count two of the indictment, a second-degree child endangering charge. Both charges involved the same victim, Haynes’ younger child.

Despetorich cited State vs. Johnson and State vs. Ruff cases regarding merger of multiple offenses.

“The felonious assault and the child endangering happened simultaneously by causing serious physical harm to the child,” Despetorich said. “The state charged Ms. Haynes with one course of conduct. That course of conduct on the felonious assault was June until September 2020. The same course of conduct on child endangering was from June until September 2020. There were no individual charges, no separate charges or separate incidents. The jury was not asked to find, nor did it find, that certain circumstances were felonious assault versus other circumstances that were child endangering.”

Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins, who appeared with assistant prosecutor Adam King on behalf of the state, argued that testimony showed the infant’s 22 bone fractures and skull fracture occurred at different instances in that time frame.

“The events in this case occurred over a period of time,” Collins said. “The jury was asked to find two specific events to find the serious physical harm in the felonious assault and a different set of events in the F2 child endangering.”

Collins added that these “are two separate crimes, occurring on two separate days” and “asked the court not to merge these for purposes of sentencing.”

Coss responded that he had to consider “whether each offense caused separate identifiable harm,” whether the two offenses “were committed separately” and whether there was a “separate animus or motivation.”

“The court is a little surprised at the argument that it does not merge,” Coss said. “The bill of particulars by the state is identical language for counts one and two. If there’s any differences, I can’t pick them out.

“You didn’t indict the [child’s] skull fracture as separate physical harm and the 22 bone fractures as serious physical harm. They weren’t separated out in the indictment.”

Coss said he did agree that the child’s injuries occurred on separate occasions, but there was “not evidence of separate animus.”

“Based on that, it’s the conclusion of the court, using the Johnson and Ruff cases, that these counts one and two must merge,” Coss said. “There will be only one sentence imposed, and under the statute, the state has the right to elect as to which count to be sentenced on.”

Collins asked that Haynes be sentenced on the felonious assault charge. She then recommended that the defendant receive the maximum sentence of eight years on that count and three years on the third-degree child endangering charge.

She listed four other Highland County Common Pleas Court cases with similar charges where either maximum, or close to the maximum, sentences were imposed. “However, none of these were as serious as what this defendant did to her children,” Collins said.

The prosecutor also noted that in some of these cases, the defendants “showed genuine remorse, which has definitely not been shown in this case.”

“I would ask the court to remember the defendant’s actions at trial,” Collins said. “Her demeanor in the courtroom, her cussing from the witness chair. I would note that as soon as she was taken into the jail, she immediately said that she thought she was pregnant again. During her phone conversations since her bond has been revoked, not one time has she ever mentioned these kids’ names. She doesn’t talk about them at all.

“Any statement that she wants to reunify and have a place in their lives is just nonsense. She has been completely uncooperative with Children Services. She won’t even speak to the caseworker. There is nothing to show that she has any sort of remorse other than remorse in that she got caught and that no one believed her story that this was somebody else’s fault.”

Collins said that it was also “offensive” that the memorandum filed by the state “blames a rough childhood” and alleges that Haynes suffered physical and sexual abuse as a child, for which she said there was no evidence discovered in the investigation.

“To excuse her conduct or even to use what she alleges was a rough childhood as an excuse for what she did is setting a precedent that if you grow up in a rough family and you grow up and abuse kids or you become a thief or you become a murderer, well, it’s OK, because you had a rough childhood,” Collins said.

The prosecutor also asked the court to remember the abuse outlined during the case, including the aforementioned fractures to Haynes’ younger child as well as starvation suffered by her older child.

“For some reason, I’m not sure why, the fact that [the older child] was eating out of a trash can has bothered me more in this case than anything else,” Collins said. “That has affected me greater than anything else I read in this case, and I don’t know why. It just really, really has. I don’t get emotional in cases very often, but when I found that out, it was emotional to me. It really, really bothers me.”

Collins said that for both children, “it’s the worst form of the offense that I’ve seen in neglecting a child.” “She deserves the maximum penalty,” the prosecutor added. “If anybody who’s walked through here does, she does.”

Despetorich asked the court to instead consider community control or a lesser sentence. He argued that the abuse in this case was not “more than serious conduct normally constituting the offense” as outlined in ORC 2929.12.

The defense attorney also told the judge that Haynes has shown “genuine remorse” for the suffering of the children, although she still “maintains her innocence” for the felonious assault charge.

“That being said, she does wish she had done more to protect these children and understands it’s a situation that she put these children in,” Despetorich said. “She knows that serious physical harm did happen to these children and is remorseful for the fact that she didn’t step in and do more to help these children.”

He added that the allegations in the memorandum regarding Haynes’ childhood were “not an excuse for what happened” but rather “a mitigating factor for the court to consider in her sentencing.”

“She had a child of her own when she was 16 years old, a very young age,” Despetorich added. “She had a second child when she was 17 and turned 18 about a week later.

“She’s not saying that as an excuse, she’s saying that as a social history of herself. In her sentencing memorandum, that is what she would like the court to know.”

Coss asked Haynes if she wanted to make a statement.

“I do love my kids with all my heart and I’m sorry I didn’t do more for them,” Haynes said, with her voice breaking. “That’s all.”

“That’s all?” Coss said. “Well, it doesn’t sound like a lot of remorse to me. You’re just continuing the pattern of lying that you established from day one when this case started, and that is saying you didn’t do more to protect them. You’re still trying to blame everyone else.”

Coss told Haynes he would have to review a transcript of the trial to “keep track of all the different lies that you told and all the different people that you blamed to try to explain away these injuries.”

“You’re basically a pathological liar,” Coss told her. “You just couldn’t tell the truth because the truth was it was you that caused the harm to these children. I don’t think there’s any question, and certainly the jury found that, and I think that was the absolute correct finding.

“You are the biological mother, but you were anything but a mother to these children.”

Coss also spoke about the abuse both children suffered.

“The evidence is pretty clear the only important person in your life was you,” he said. “The children were an inconvenience, and you didn’t have the attitude of a mother at all.”

Coss said the evidence showed Haynes was “basically starving” her older child “to death,” adding that the child’s “life was a living hell” and that Haynes “was responsible and no one else.”

“It’s despicable,” Coss said. “There’s no other way to describe it. I have to agree with the prosecutor, and unfortunately I’ve been around a lot longer than she has. This was just appalling testimony and facts, that a child [that] age would grab food out of the garbage and would grab on to … food and shove it into [the child’s] mouth so quick because obviously [the child] was afraid if [the child] didn’t it was going to go away. It was clear that [the child] wasn’t getting fed.

“What this little [child] went through is unbelievable, and I just hope and pray that [the child] won’t remember it.”

Coss added that it was also “unbelievable” that the older child, at 15 months old, also could not stand, walk or talk. “It’s clear the [child] got no attention from [the] mother — at least no good attention,” he said.

For Haynes’ younger child who suffered 22 broken bones and a skull fracture, Coss said, “without question, in the law, this is worst possible form of the offense on count one for felonious assault.”

“[The child] wasn’t even 3 months old,” Coss said. “What worse victim could there be other than a helpless infant that you brought into this world? The 22 fractured bones, plus a fractured skull is just unbelievable.”

Coss concluded by repeating that Haynes is still not admitting guilt and “still blaming everyone else.”

“You want to live in that world, you may,” the judge said. “I can understand why you would want to do that because you can’t bring yourself to admit what a lowlife human being you would have to be to do what you did.

“In the law, there can’t be anything worse form than what there was in either of these two counts.”

Coss then sentenced Haynes to a definite determinate term of eight years on the felonious assault, explaining that under the Reagan Tokes Law, she could receive an additional four years.

“The Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections does have the authority to determine that you should serve an additional period of time beyond [the eight years], based upon your evaluation of your case and you while you’re serving your sentence,” Coss said. “That means they could increase that sentence by 50 percent, meaning they could increase it to a total of 12 years. That would be up to them, and the court’s not involved with that, but I hope that they do, personally, based on the evidence.

“This calls for as long an incarceration as possible under the law because I do have concerns about you committing this crime again, having more children, and there’s nothing in the world that makes me believe you will change your behavior. Unfortunately, at least my experience has shown in 45 years in this business, is people who beat children don’t stop.”

Coss also sentenced to Haynes to a three-year sentence on the child endangering count to run consecutively to the aforementioned eight-year sentence.

“The court does not find that there’s any mitigating circumstances here whatsoever,” Coss said. “The court does not feel that you have shown any true remorse, and the court also finds that consecutive sentences are warranted. I think they’re demanded under any sense of justice.”

Haynes will have jail time credit of 63 days.

The judge said that upon her release, Haynes will be subject to three years of post-release control. He also advised her of her right to an appeal.

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