Monday, November 24, 2014

Man gets 30 days in jail after conviction in wandering child case

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 4/2/2014

A 28-year-old Ottawa man who was found guilty in February of endangering a child after his 2-year-old was found wandering in the street will spend 30 days in jail.

District Magistrate Judge Kevin Kimball sentenced Justin Vogeler to 12 months in the Franklin County Detention Center, then suspended 11 months of that sentence and ordered Vogeler to serve 30 days in jail, during Vogeler’s sentencing hearing Wednesday in Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa. The judge set the jail sentence to begin April 18.

A 28-year-old Ottawa man who was found guilty in February of endangering a child after his 2-year-old was found wandering in the street will spend 30 days in jail.

District Magistrate Judge Kevin Kimball sentenced Justin Vogeler to 12 months in the Franklin County Detention Center, then suspended 11 months of that sentence and ordered Vogeler to serve 30 days in jail, during Vogeler’s sentencing hearing Wednesday in Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa. The judge set the jail sentence to begin April 18.

The judge also ordered Vogeler be placed on one year of supervised probation, to begin after the 30-day jail sentence was completed. As a stipulation of probation, Kimball required Vogeler to undergo a mental health assessment and to attend age-appropriate parenting classes. If Vogeler violates the conditions of his probation, he could be forced to serve the remaining 11 months of his jail sentence.

Kimball found Vogeler guilty of one misdemeanor count of endangering a child at the conclusion of Vogeler’s bench trial Feb. 24.

A resident found Vogeler’s 2-year-old son wandering in the street July 24, 2013, at the intersection of East Fifth and South Mulberry streets, about two blocks from Vogeler’s home at 516 S. Sycamore St., Ottawa police said.

During his bench trial in February, Vogeler testified he had left the children in the care of his 20-year-old cousin, Zach Vogeler, the night before the incident. Zach Vogeler had moved into Justin Vogeler’s home about a month before the July incident, both Vogelers testified.

Justin Vogeler admitted on the stand he had lied to Ottawa police investigators in July when he told them he had left the house about 7 a.m. to go work on cars the day his son was found in the street. Vogeler told the court that when the incident happened last summer he was earning a living by repairing cars and doing various maintenance work.

Vogeler was renovating a home he owned near Sixth and Walnut streets July 23 — about six or seven blocks from his house on Sycamore — when his cousin agreed to watch Vogeler’s two sons, the toddler and a 7-month-old infant, he said. Vogeler testified he sat down that night in a rocker at the Sixth and Walnut home to rest and fell asleep. Vogeler did not awake until the next morning when he received a call from his father to let him know the police had the 2-year-old boy, he said.

Before the sentencing, James Ward, assistant Franklin County attorney, asked the judge to sentence Vogeler to 30 days in jail as part of a 12-month sentence, the maximum penalty allowed under the law for the Class A misdemeanor conviction. Ward also had asked the judge to order Vogeler to attend parenting classes and undergo a mental health assessment as terms of Vogeler’s supervised probation.

Ward, noting the age of the children, told the judge this was a serious offense and that the prosecution had established during the bench trial that Vogeler’s 2-year-old had wandered off before, which demonstrated a troubling pattern. He also listed criminal activity in Vogeler’s background, including burglary, arson and criminal damage to property incidents. A defendant’s previous criminal background can be taken into consideration at the time of sentencing.

“I think requiring the defendant to spend 30 days in jail would send a strong message to the defendant that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated,” Ward said.

Ward was hopeful that requiring the mental health assessment and parenting classes would help rehabilitate Vogeler and prevent this type of behavior from reoccurring, he said.

Bryan Hastert, Vogeler’s defense attorney, argued that Vogeler’s children had been taken away from him and that already was the worst punishment he could receive. Hastert thought requiring Vogeler to spend 30 days in jail, on top of having his children taken away, was excessive punishment. He noted that the children were now in the care of their mother.

Hastert, instead, asked Judge Kimball to sentence his client to probation. He said his client would be willing to comply with all the terms of his probation, including completing parenting classes.

Vogeler, in a brief statement before sentencing, told the judge he had not anticipated his cousin, Zach Vogeler, would leave the children unattended. He also apologized for falling asleep that night at the renovation project site and not returning home.

“I didn’t mean to fall asleep, but I did,” Vogeler said. 

Vogeler reiterated Hastert’s point that taking his children away from him already was the worse punishment he could endure. Before this incident, Vogeler was the primary caregiver for the children.

After hearing the arguments and reviewing the facts of the case, Kimball said, he thought the 30-day jail term was “extremely appropriate” in this matter.

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