ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – An emotional Cathleen Koch on Wednesday gave her 10-month-old son a long hug and several kisses moments before she was taken into custody to begin an eight-year prison sentence.
Judge Timothy Q. Sheldon issued that term for her role in the 2010 attack on her then-1-year-old daughter at a St. Charles motel.
Koch, 30, pleaded guilty in July to 13 counts associated with the attack on her daughter, Molly, by her then-boyfriend, James C. Cooper. Molly suffered severe injuries in the beating and is expected to never live independently.
Although Koch did not beat Molly, Illinois appellate courts have held that a person aids another person in the commission of an offense where she has a duty to act to protect her child but chooses not to.
Wednesday, Koch appeared in court for the second day of her sentencing hearing.
Sheldon announced Koch’s sentence after more than two hours of closing arguments by Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Cullen – who asked for 10 to 14 years – and defense attorney Liz Lovig, who asked for probation.
Cullen presented Koch as a mother “devoid of mercy and compassion,” who favored her “selfish needs” above Molly’s.
“It’s a myth that she cared about her daughter, your honor,” Cullen said.
While Cullen argued that Koch failed to keep her daughter from harm, Lovig argued hindsight is 20/20. Koch couldn’t have been able to predict Cooper, whom she had dated about six months, would almost kill her daughter Oct. 27, 2010, Lovig said.
“She hadn’t met that kind of evil,” Lovig said.
Once in the perilous situation, Koch made decisions to protect her daughter, Lovig said, but they turned out to be unsuccessful.
“You don’t operate in hindsight,” Lovig said.
Koch also spoke briefly to give her statement of elocution. Reading from a prepared statement that shook in her hands, Koch described Molly as a “miracle child in so many ways.” Koch said she has participated in domestic abuse counseling, a women’s group and parenting classes.
“As a parent, it’s not about me and what I want,” Koch said. “It’s about my children’s needs.”
Sheldon, however, said he never observed remorse from Koch and described her statements as “I focused.” He said it is “inconceivable” that a loving parent would not have sacrificed “life and limb” to protect her child.
An eight-year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections is about half of the 15-year sentence Cooper agreed to, which Sheldon said was appropriate.
Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said in a written statement that his office has been committed to getting justice for Molly, who was repeatedly and needlessly exposed to violence by the person legally responsible to protect her.
“Although Ms. Koch ultimately did accept legal responsibility to the court for her refusal to protect her daughter from a violent man, we have maintained that justice in this case must include a significant prison term in part because of Ms. Koch’s inexcusable transgression against her child and in part because not one among us should for a second believe that refusing to protect a young child – refusing to even attempt to protect a child – is tolerable,” McMahon said. “This sentence reflects the significance of Ms. Koch’s inaction and the gravity of the injuries to the child.”
According to state law, Koch must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence. She will receive credit for one day served in the Kane County Jail. She also must pay fines on the child endangerment charges.
Koch sat back in her chair and, with her hands on her head, tugged at her hair moments after Sheldon announced the sentence.
Security allowed her to hug her sister and son, Austin, who was carried into the courtroom by Koch’s mother, Carrie Johnson.
Johnson believes Koch’s sentence will dissuade other domestic abuse victims from seeking help, she said.
“I’m not saying she was innocent,” Johnson said, “but eight years?”