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Woman sentenced in child abuse case

La Plata, MD - For an Akron, Ohio woman, ending up in the courtroom of Charles County Circuit Court Judge H. James West was not in her career plans.

Twenty-three-year-old Tanzanian Ja’nnai Johnson was in court Monday, May 17 to face sentencing on charges of first-degree child abuse which caused severe physical injury.

Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Freeman said that between Jan. 25, 2014 and Jan. 27, 2014, the 6-month-old biological daughter in the care and custody of the defendant, was injured severely. Freeman said when the child was taken to the hospital Jan. 28, the child was found to have a broken right femur, a fracture, she said, which “happens with a high amount of force.”

Johnson was in the Air Force, Freeman said.

“Due to the severity of the injury, the child had to go to Children’s Hospital,” Freeman said. “The biological father had no more interest in the daughter. Johnson was dealing with the child. The physician said the injury had to be force-applied to the leg.”

She added that the child was placed with her grandmother.

“She [Johnson] has been discharged from the Air Force because of this,” Freeman said.

“There are a few things I want to say about this case,” Public Defender Chris Stuart told the court. “The special facts of this case put me in an interesting position. I am going to ask for unsupervised probation. She is innocent,” he added.

Stuart said that his client’s relationship with the biological father of the child ended before the child was born. He said the day before the child was taken to the hospital, the father watched the baby by himself.

"I think that is a little more than coincidence,” he added.

Stuart called the case prepared by his office “sloppily done.”

“Put simply,” he said, “we messed this case up. This put her in a box. Things that weren’t done couldn’t be done in time. The charges here are incredibly serious,” he added. “The investigation was non-conclusive.”

After being discharged from the military, she couldn’t find work and currently cleans houses.

“She’s never been in trouble before,” Stuart told the court.

Johnson’s mother, Tanisha Stewart, also told the court that her daughter’s relationship with the child’s father ended before the baby was born.

“She gave him a second chance and opened that window of opportunity, and that decision has cost her tremendously,” Stewart said. “She’s caught between a rock and a hard place.”

“She was the sole caregiver,” Freeman countered.

“The day before the child was taken to the hospital was the first time the father ever watched the child alone,” Stuart said.

“I love my daughter,” Johnson told the court. “I did not hurt her. I just want to get my life back. Something horrible happened, but I didn’t do it.”

West handed down a sentence of six years which he then suspended before instituting a sentence of supervised probation for three years.

Johnson, who lives in Akron, Ohio, may be able to get the probation transferred to Summit County, Ohio, West said, adding that she would have to report to the Charles County Office of Parole and Probation initially.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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