A Pennsylvania couple accused of waterboarding their daughter last year as a form of punishment are expected to avoid jail and start working toward regaining supervision of the 13-year-old girl as part of a plea agreement recently confirmed by attorneys.
Police say the Aliquippa couple, Malisa and Dion Stevens, admitted performing the act after their daughter, who was 12 at the time, told a neighbor who in turn called police to report the child’s confession.
According to KDKA, the parents claimed to have arrived at the idea to use the aggressive interrogation technique as a form of corporal punishment after seeing the procedure performed in a movie.
Their daughter allegedly recalled being led into the basement and confined to a chair with packaging tape. She said her hands were tied behind her back and rags were shoved in her mouth.
Police say she claimed her parents then tilted the chair back and poured a bucket of water over her face, preventing her from breathing and screaming for help.
Instead of moving forward with a trial, defense attorneys say they have instead opted for a plea deal that would allow the parents to avoid jail and set a path for them to see their daughter again in the near future.
“We have entered into a tentative plea agreement with the district attorney’s office,” attorney Lee Rothman said. “It’s my hope that the agreement will be upheld. It’s an agreement that is geared toward family unification.”
Though the terms had not yet been finalized by a judge as of his announcement, Rothman provided a few broad parameters for its terms.
“It would be a term of probation,” he said. “It doesn’t involve a felony count at this particular time and the district attorney’s office has indicated this is what they want.”
As part of the deal, however, reports indicate both Dion and Malisa Stevens will plead guilty to a felony count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier shared a similar update, indicating that more severe charges were dropped in the interest of restoring the family, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Should this child be reunited with her parents?
“If we kept the strangulation and aggravated assault, the family would never be able to reunify, and the minor wanted to regain contact with the parents,” he said.
The agreement is expected to include a 5- to 7-year probated sentence.
Rothman further indicated that defense attorneys were able to negotiate supervised visitations that are expected to begin soon.
“The district attorney’s office has also agreed to lift the no-contact order with the mother and father with their child,” he said. “And that they are to have no violent contact and that their would be unification process through Children and Youth Family Services.”
Attorney Brandon Eberle, who is representing Dion Stevens, said the father’s “goal was to be reunited with his daughter” and that “his daughter has expressed the same token” in court.
“After discussing it with the D.A., I think we are on the next step to reach that goal,” Eberle concluded.
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