Judge considering request for psych exam in alleged child torture case, By Crystal McMorris, mlive.com, July 1, 2008

Cassandra Pasquale, charged with torturing a 7-year-old boy in Bay City, ''may not have been criminally responsible for her alleged offenses,'' her attorney says.

Jeffrey M. Day has asked Circuit Judge William J. Caprathe to order Pasquale, 31, of Bay City, to the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti for a psychiatric examination.

Pasquale, along with her husband, Michael, 33, and Michael Harsha, the alleged victim's father, have been charged with first- and second-degree child abuse for allegedly starving, burning, beating and choking a seven-year-old boy in Bay City. The Pasquales also have been charged with torture, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Prosecutors had offered the pair a plea bargain to dismiss the torture charge in exchange for guilty pleas to the abuse counts; they would serve less than eight years in prison in exchange for their pleas. The plea deal has been put on hold while Caprathe hears the motion for Cassandra Pasquale's evaluation.

Caprathe will hear the motion at 8:30 a.m. July 9.

Day has indicated that his client plans to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

''Due to the nature of her problems, she may not have been criminally responsible for the alleged offense,'' Day wrote.

He also indicated she may be ''unable to rationally assist in her defense and may be unable to handle the pressure of being present in an open courtroom.''

The plea bargain offered by prosecutors would have had the Pasquales giving up the rights to their other children; each has a child with another partner. There has been no indication that those children were abused.

Michael Harsha, the father of the alleged victim, had signed parental rights of the child over to the Pasquales because, he told investigators, he feared that the state would try to take custody of the child from him. He has agreed to testify against the Pasquales and is expected to go to trial on the child abuse charges sometime in July.

Harsha's custody rights have been terminated, and the boy is in custody of a maternal relative. His mother died when he was a preschooler.

The boy weighed just 31 pounds when brought to the hospital last year with a severe burn. Although he initially made excuses for his bruises and burns, he later said he had been locked in the basement or in a closet and was regularly beaten by all three of the adults in his household.

He said he would sometimes go without food for three days or more while others in the house, including the visiting children, were allowed to eat.

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