PULASKI - The woman accused in March of intentionally starving a 4-year-old child down to 22 pounds has pleaded guilty to a single count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor.
The child is in state custody after being removed from care of Sarah Diamond, 28, of 27 Marsden Drive, Mexico. Diamond was originally also charged with second-degree assault, a class D felony, for which she could have faced seven years in state prison.
Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes’ office recommended the assault charge be dropped, leaving Diamond looking, at most, at a sentence of one year in county jail.
Judge James Ridgeway accepted Diamond’s guilty plea Nov. 13 in the town of Richland court and set sentencing for Jan. 22, 2020. He ordered a pre-sentence investigation be commenced, which he expects to be completed within six to eight weeks. He reminded Diamond a stay-away order preventing her from having any contact with the child victim is still in effect.
Diamond was arrested along with her 23-year-old boyfriend, Devon Buckner, by state police March 6 following a three- to four-month investigation in coordination with Child Protective Services and Oakes’ office. Both Diamond and Buckner were remanded to the Oswego County Correctional Facility in lieu of $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond, and both were bonded out by the next day.
The investigation stemmed from a report to state police by a staff member at an Oswego County school where the child was enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program. According to police, the child was not dressed appropriately for the weather conditions and was “extremely thin,” weighing 22 pounds.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average (50th percentile) weight of a 4-year-old is 35 pounds. At 28 pounds, a 4-year-old would be in the 3rd percentile of all 4-year-olds, and at 22 pounds, a 4-year-old child is listed as in the one-tenth of one percent percentile, meaning 99.9 percent of all 4-year-olds weigh more than 22 pounds.
It was recommended Diamond and Buckner have the child seen by a doctor, but they refused to do so, according to police. At that point, the child’s health was considered to be in danger, and police obtained a court order demanding the child be seen.
The doctor, or doctors, reported the child was “way under nourished,” said New York State Police spokesman, Trooper Jack Keller. “They called it maltreatment and discuss it as chronic starvation.”
It was also determined the child had no prior existing health conditions.
The child was then removed by court order to foster care.
According to Keller, the original assault charge in this case did not imply the couple beat the child. Instead, it refers to the alleged intentional starvation of the 4-year-old which, under subdivision nine of the state penal law is defined as the intentional physical injury of a person under seven by a person over 18.
Buckner is the child’s biological father, but Diamond is not the child’s biological mother. The biological mother lives out of state, according to police.
Oakes responded to questions about the disposition of this case with regard to clarifying his office’s rationale for dropping the more serious assault charge against Sarah Diamond.
This is what Oakes said:
“Although Sarah Diamond was initially charged with a felony offense, the case was resolved by a plea to the misdemeanor offense of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. This disposition was reached due to potential proof problems, as the victim was 4-years-old and could not provide an account of what happened and who was responsible. To convict Diamond of the assault, the people would have had to prove that she was solely or primarily responsible for starving the child, but the child’s father also lived in the home. “Complicating matters is the fact that Sarah Diamond has no legal relationship to the child, even though she lived in the home. Her mere presence is insufficient to establish responsibility for the alleged conduct. However, the prosecution was able to argue that Diamond’s presence in the home and her inaction endangered the child’s welfare.
“Although the DA’s Office has no role in custody matters, we absolutely consider the outcome in Family Court when resolving cases. It’s my understanding that Diamond complied with all requirements put in place by the Family Court regarding her own child. More significantly, it’s my understanding that the child’s father surrendered custody, which allowed for the victim to be placed for adoption.
“While the DA’s office could not require or request the surrender of parental rights, I suspect that Diamond and the father hoped their actions in Family Court would be favorably considered by our office. Our concern is always the child’s long-term well-being, and we welcomed the development to make sure that the victim remains safe.
I want to thank all of the DSS caseworkers and NYSP Investigator Charlotte Yerdon for all of their hard work in this case. Without their diligence and tenacity, it’s likely that there would be no conviction, and the child would still be in the home. By working together, we were able to save this child and keep her safe, and that’s a good outcome.”
Buckner, also of 27 Marsden Drive, has been scheduled to appear before Judge Ridgeway at least four times since his original arraignment. All of his appearances have been adjourned. Buckner showed up for an appearance Nov. 13 in the town of Richland court, but Buckner’s attorney, Anthony DiMartino, had left the building earlier, and therefore, that appearance too was adjourned.