A Juneau man who beat a 2-year old girl so severely that she suffered brain damage will spend the next fifteen years in prison.
24-year old Nicholas W. Kokotovich was sentenced in Juneau Superior Court Wednesday afternoon on an assault charge. The sentence includes a total of 20-years with 5-years suspended. That’s the maximum allowed under a plea and sentence agreement he made with prosecutors, although the judge expressed a temptation to throw out the agreement and impose a harsher sentence.
Kokotovich was arrested in June, 2010. That was almost a month after he and the girl’s mother Adrienne Hosiner took little Reina Stone to Bartlett Regional Hospital. Stone suffered severe head and face injuries, and was medivacked to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, police investigators recounted stories from Kokotovich that Reina apparently suffered injuries by jumping off a couch and landing on an end table. That supposedly happened while he was caring for the girl while Hosiner was at work. Then, Kokotovich says the toddler suffered additional injuries the following day by falling off a bed during a diaper change. Later, he concocted a new story that Reina’s beating was retribution after Kokotovich’s supposed falling-out from a Portland drug dealing organization. Finally, he admitted that he left Reina alone for a few hours, bought and consumed a gram of cocaine, came home and “snapped” when Reina became defiant about laying down for a nap. He told investigators about using an open hand to hit her on the side of her head, kicking her in the back, and then punching her with a closed fist so hard in the head that she was likely thrown against nearby dresser.
Investigators played a recording of an emotionally-charged telephone conversation between Kokotovich and Hosiner; He admitting hitting the girl and she pleading for an explanation why he did it.
Much of Wednesday’s hearing was used to explain graphic photographs of Reina and the injuries she suffered. Among those testifying was Dr. Naomi Sugar of the University of Washington School of Medicine who also spends much of her time at Harborview and Seattle Children’s Hospital. She detailed Reina’s nearly two-week long stay in Harborview’s Intensive Care Unit. Part of Reina’s skull was temporarily removed to relieve brain swelling. That swelling led to a lack of oxygen on the right side of the brain — essentially a stroke — and she also suffered retinal damage and multiple bruises thoughout the body and head. Because of the injuries’ severity and her rapid deterioriation following the beating, Dr. Sugar says “emergency room care at Bartlett Regional Hospital saved her life.”
Juneau pediatrician Dr. Marna Schwartz says Reina has apparently lost her left-side vision in both eyes, has little balance, suffers from possible bowel and bladder dysfunction stemming from the assault, and her speech and language development has regressed to that of a typical two-year old — although it has improved over the last year.
Reina today, as a four-year old, has lost function on the left side of her body and cannot stand or walk. She requires the 24-hour attention and care of her foster parents in Juneau. But she can talk, play, and crawls – or scoots — around using her right leg and arm. Prosecutors Wednesday played a video of an energetic Reina playing with investigators at the Juneau Police Department station lobby on Tuesday. Dr. Schwartz says Reina is currently undergoing occupational, physical, and speech therapy.
Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg was clearly moved and upset at the end of the day-long hearing – saying he wasn’t sure to “Cry or get angry. Angry because someone did this to a two-year old; Cry because of what she’s lost.” Pallenberg mused that roughly at the time that Kokotovich would be eligible for parole for a typical assault sentence, Reina should be in middle school, playing sports, learning about the world, mingling with friends, and on first dates with a boyfriend. Instead, she’ll likely be in a wheelchair, going to therapy and special education classes.
Pallenberg said he couldn’t understand this”, saying it was unusual and inexplicable. Reina was “hit not just once,” said Pallenberg, but Kokotovich “had beat the crap out of this child.”
Reina was within a “hairsbreadth” from being killed and Pallenberg says attempted murder would fit the crime, though the charge probably wouldn’t stand up in court. He contemplated throwing out the plea agreement and imposing time-to-serve longer than 15years, but he was concerned that court proceedings would continue to drag on for months. He also imposed 5-years probation and set restitution to be determined later.
The last words during made Wednesday’s nearly seven-hour hearing was Pallenberg to Hosiner, “I’m sorry for your loss.”