JUDGE: OFFENDER A MODERATE RISK (Mother of molested child had wanted ex-baby-sitter to be given the most severe sex offender status)

Newsday/Alfonso A. Castillo

Wendy Hatras, 34, was charged with first degree sexual abuse, a felony, and endangering thewelfare of a child and second degree reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors, after a Holbrookgrandmother secretly videotaped her with a camera disguised as an alarm clock and saw Hatrasphysically abusing her 2 year old grandson on tape. Hatras, of 120 Geery Avenue in Holbrook, washired after she responded to an ad for a sitter in a local paper. She provided references, whichall checked out. The grandmother became suspicious after noticing what appeared to be a bite markand handprint on her grandson's face. She first put the camera in the living room but the sitterand the boy were not spending much time there so she moved it to the bedroom. One day earlier therewas nothing unusual on the tape but, she came home from work and watched the six hour tape and apart of it from 11:20 am - 2:30 pm was horrifying. Hatras was lying on the bed next to the boy andsuddenly slapped him and pulled his hair. At one point, she covered the boy's mouth with her handand then checked to see whether he was still breathing. She also improperly touched the boy andtried to breast feed him. Judge Stephen Braslow, the Suffolk County Court Judge who is under firefor his handling of recent sex crime cases, has disqualified himself from handling the case inwhich he reneged on a promised plea deal. Hatras pleaded guilty in December to molesting the 2 yearold boy and in return for her guilty plea to first-degree sexual abuse and other charges, Braslowagreed to sentence her to a year in jail and 10 years probation. At Braslow's direction, Hatraswaived her bail and entered jail before she was formally sentenced. But since the furor overBraslow's 1 year jail sentence in another case for a man who raped his teenage stepdaughter, hewithdrew his promise. The judge told her attorney that he intended to impose a sentence of at least3 years in prison, unless she withdrew her guilty plea and went to trial. Hatras' attorney soonfiled a motion asking the new judge in the case, Supervising Judge Ralph Gazzillo, to abide byBraslow's original promise. Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, is anadvocate for child sex crimes victims who criticized both Braslow's original promise to Hatras andthe sentence in the rape case. Ahearn said, My hope is that in the end, there will be a justresult and closure for this family. Ahearn had said in a statement released to the press, thatBraslow's sentence in that case sent a message of tolerance to sexual predators and a message thatchildren have little value. She wants Hatras to serve 5 years in prison and said she didn't knowwhether the criticism had influenced Braslow on the Hatras case. Theoretically, public opinion isnot supposed to influence a judge's decision on a case. Hatras was sentenced on July 22, 2002, to 4years in prison.

Parents who want to protect their children from a monster who will probably abuse again shouldbe able to know the exact whereabouts of Hatras, the mother of her 2 year old victim said yesterdayafter Gazzillo declined to assign Hatras the most severe sex offender status. She's never, as faras I'm concerned, paid her debt to society, the disappointed mother of the boy, now 6, saidoutside Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. There is no debt that she could ever pay that is goodenough for me. Hatras was released in June, but under Megan's Law has to register with the stateas a sex offender. Although under a point system applied by the state, Hatras would normallyclassify as a low-risk re-offender, prosecutors and state officials urged Gazzillo to depart fromthe system and assign her a high-risk rating because of the nature of her crime. That would meanher home and work addresses would permanently be published on a state Web site. Gazzillo assignedher moderate-risk status, which requires her to publish only her home zip code.

(Holbrook, New York)