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Prosecutors Plan to Retry Parents in Abuse Case

A jury acquitted the Yorba Linda couple of a felony and split on misdemeanors. Judge may drop all charges over discipline tactics.

January 04, 2003|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

Prosecutors announced Friday that they intend to seek a second trial of a Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant and his wife, a former school principal, both accused of emotionally abusing their teenage son.

A jury acquitted Grady and Deborah Machnick last month of a felony conspiracy charge but deadlocked on misdemeanor child abuse charges. The boy, now 16, contends his parents often forced him to sleep outside and once sent him to school with dog feces in his backpack, a punishment for having failed to pick up after the family dogs.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey scheduled a hearing Jan. 31 to consider the couple's request to throw out all charges.

Grady Machnick's attorney, John Barnett, said he will ask Dickey to dismiss the case because he believes the evidence does not amount to criminal child abuse and "no jury will ever reach a unanimous verdict in this case."

Machnick, on leave from his job at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles, is the boy's father. Deborah Machnick, former principal of an elementary school in Walnut, is his stepmother.

In his closing argument last month, Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter Pierce noted that the conduct of both parents amounted to child abuse. According to testimony, the parents often would not allow the boy in the house in Yorba Linda unless he finished his homework, forcing him to sleep with dog blankets and to use the bathroom at a park.

Also, the boy alleged that his stepmother once took nude photographs of him as punishment for having left the house unlocked. The boy alleged that his father once punched him in the stomach during a fit of anger.

The parents' lawyers denied any physical abuse and said the other conduct was their attempt to discipline a wayward child, who had been caught stealing from them and shoplifting at a neighborhood market.

Jurors deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of convicting Deborah Machnick of misdemeanor child abuse and were split 9 to 3 in favor of acquitting her husband of the charge.

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