Madelyne Gorman Toogood, the mother who was videotaped striking her 4-year-old daughter in a shopping mall parking lot, pleaded not guilty today to a charge of felony battery to a child.
After her arraignment in a South Bend, Ind., court, Toogood's attorney Steven Rosen said the plea was only a formality. He said hoped he prosecutors will offer a plea arrangement that will keep her out of jail and allow her to be with her child.
"Of course, with facts of the case the way they are now, I am hopeful that a plea bargain would be offered by the prosecution which would entail a probationary period, community service," Rosen said.
However, Rosen acknowledged that the videotape of Toogood could be practically insurmountable and that she would probably have to ask for the mercy of the court.
"We will probably enter a guilty plea and throw ourselves on the mercy of the court," Rosen said. "If a jury has to sit in judgment of this lady, the jury is going to come back with a guilty verdict … I'm confronted with a videotape that shows Attila the Hun, no question about it."
Toogood, 25, told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America this morning that she hit her daughter, Martha, in the head and back, but did not punch her. She said she has no excuses for her actions.
"I slapped and pulled my daughter's hair," Toogood said. "There is no reason. There's nothing I can say that explains it, because it wasn't right."
"It's pretty much indescribable," Toogood said of the videotape that features her hitting her little girl.
But she says she's already paid a terrible price: "I just hope in some way it's going to stop, maybe, the next person, because it ain't worth it. My child's gone, my husband's devastated and my parents."
Toogood did not speak at her arraignment today. After the plea was entered, Rosen said he had spent time with Martha and knew she had been raised in a loving home.
"She is a fun-loving happy, very intelligent young lady and if she was an abused young girl, I think all of us could really tell."
Toogood's next court appearance is scheduled Oct. 7.
Foster Family Cares for Martha
Martha Toogood was examined by doctors, and authorities said she showed no signs of physical injury, but the state placed her in temporary custody with a foster family.
St. Joseph Probate Court Judge Peter J. Nemeth told child-protection officials they had two weeks to recommend who should care for Martha.
Toogood, a mother of three, surrendered to police Saturday, eight days after the nationally televised videotape depicted her shaking and hitting her daughter for about 30 seconds in a Mishawaka, Ind., department store parking lot.
Mishawaka Police Department officials said they released the tape to TV stations to help track down Toogood and the child, whom they feared could be seriously injured.
A Public Apology
After being released from jail on $5,000 bail, Toogood began making public pleas for forgiveness.
Although she acknowledged to reporters what she had done, Toogood criticized authorities' decision to temporarily place her daughter with another family. She contended that her husband or another extended family member should have been allowed to take care of the child.
"My child's with strangers," she said. "Nobody's got no rights to her because of me, and she has none either because of me."
Chris Toth, a prosecutor for St. Joseph County, Ind., says it's best the girl stays where she has been placed for now.
"Anybody who saw that video, I think, was sickened in their heart, and obviously, our first priority is ... to make sure that little girl is safe," Toth argued. "The worst thing we could do is return a girl, a little girl like that, to an environment where we're not sure whether she's going to be safe or not."
From Town to Town
Toogood and many of her family members are part of a group that calls themselves the Irish Travelers, a nomadic group that moves from town to town, looking for work.
Since the incident in the parking lot 10 days ago, Toogood traveled from Indiana to Maryland to Pennsylvania and back. She also made a videotape of Martha, as "proof" that the child was not abused, she said.
She said she videotaped her "from head to toe" on the night that she left Indiana because she knew authorities would say she was abused. But Toogood said there was not a mark on her.
Police had been searching for Toogood and her daughter since the Sept. 13 incident, caught on video by a surveillance camera outside a Kohl's department store in Mishawaka.
It is store policy to follow customers who try to return merchandise into the parking lot, so when Toogood left, the camera zoomed in on her, just as the beating began.
Authorities said Toogood left the store angry because she was refused a cash refund for goods. But Toogood denied the failed refund attempt was connected to the beating.
The mother says she has already received the worst punishment she can imagine for her actions. "There is nothing that could be done to me worse than is my child's been took away from me," Toogood said. "It's the worst thing that could ever happen to me."