EVERETT — A Lynnwood woman who earlier pleaded guilty to pushing an 8-year-old boy’s hand and face onto a hot stove told a judge Tuesday that she changed her mind and wants to withdraw the plea.
As a result, Cathleen Arthur is once again at risk of potentially serving up to 8.5 years in prison.
Arthur, 36, was to have been sentenced Tuesday. Under terms of her Dec. 1 plea to a single second-degree assault charge, she was looking at a jail term somewhere between three months and nine months.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Travis Johnson on Tuesday stuck to the agreement and recommended six months. Arthur’s defense attorney, John Crowley, asked for three. He also requested a month’s delay in sentencing so his client could explore enrolling in a work release program in an adjacent county. Work release here was a recent casualty of county budget cuts.
Superior Court Judge George Bowden began asking Arthur questions about the work training program she hoped to attend and about her ability to pay court fines and fees for work release.
That’s when she said the charges in her case were unduly harsh, and she wanted to withdraw her guilty plea.
“I would never do anything to deliberately harm any child,” Arthur said. She added that she didn’t fully understand the consequences of her plea.
It was longtime judge Thomas Wynne who took Arthur’s guilty plea prior to his recent retirement from the superior court bench, Bowden reminded her. The judge said he wasn’t in a position to simply erase the earlier action absent other court action and hearings. He also reminded her that if the plea was withdrawn, prosecutors would no longer be bound by the agreement.
Arthur had been headed to trial on two felony charges alleging both first- and second-degree assault on a child. If convicted as charged, she faced a sentence of 6.5 years to 8.5 years under state sentencing guidelines, Johnson told the judge.
Bowden recessed the hearing to give Arthur an opportunity to talk over her options with her attorney. When the hearing resumed, she initially told the judge she was ready to proceed to sentencing, but again balked and said she didn’t know what to do.
The judge ordered Arthur jailed and set her bail at $5,000. She can explore from jail how to go about withdrawing her plea, he said.
The investigation began after the boy in February 2014 was taken to a south county hospital with severe burns on his face and palm.
The child initially told doctors that he tripped over the family dogs while helping clean the stove and fell against a hot burner.
About a month later he reportedly told a social worker that he’d been told to lie, and that Arthur had pushed his face onto the burner. She was angry after discovering that he’d been playing with matches and had burned the comforter on her bed, the boy said.
When confronted by sheriff’s detectives, Arthur denied responsibility, but later allegedly admitted hurting the boy to teach him a lesson about playing with matches, court papers show.
The boy required surgery to remove scar tissue from his palm, and received a skin graft.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snorthnews.