Mother gets probation in child endangerment case

  • Hampshire County Courthouse GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2021 8:24:05 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The former wife of Christopher Conley, the Northampton man sentenced to prison last year for trying to kill the couple’s 7-year-old daughter with drain cleaner, has been convicted of a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment of a child.

On Wednesday, Hampshire Superior Court Judge Richard Carey sentenced Julie Gordon, formerly Julie Conley, to probation until September 2023 for medical child abuse that allegedly took place during the two-year period prior to the 2015 poisoning.

In a virtual hearing held via Zoom, Gordon, 39, entered a plea of “nolo contendere,” meaning that she maintains her innocence but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict her at trial. Prosecutors and defense attorneys jointly recommended probation.

Gordon stood accused of exposing her daughter to harm by lying to doctors about the girl’s medical condition leading up to Christopher Conley’s near-fatal assault on her. Prosecutors said the poisoning brought the rest of the alleged child abuse to investigators’ attention, but Gordon’s charge was not related to the poisoning itself.

Carey, as part of a plea agreement between the defense and prosecutors, dismissed two felony charges that were returned by a grand jury in 2015. Two other felony charges against Gordon were dismissed last year.

“Ms. Gordon once again asserted her innocence, as she has since the inception of this case” more than six years ago, defense attorneys said in a statement, reiterating that Christopher Conley acted alone in poisoning their daughter.

Conditions of Gordon’s probation include that she have no contact with the victim, no unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 16, and no employment involving unsupervised contact with children.

In February 2020, a Hampshire Superior Court jury found Christopher Conley guilty of trying to kill the couple’s daughter in April 2015. He was sentenced to 16 to 18 years in prison for injecting Liquid-Plumr through her cecostomy tube, a medical device implanted in her intestines, and then overdosing her with painkillers.

Doctors were forced to remove significant portions of the girl’s intestines and bladder. Christopher Conley was convicted of attempted murder, assault and battery on a child by means of a dangerous weapon (opiates), and assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury.

At Wednesday’s hearing on Gordon’s case, lead prosecutor Linda Pisano, chief of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Child Abuse Unit, described a “long-running series of supposed physical ailments leading to increasingly complex medical interventions,” prosecutors said in a statement.

“During that time, Julie Gordon, the child’s main caretaker, misrepresented the victim’s medical condition and consented to surgical procedures she knew carried the risk of scarring and impairment of bodily functions,” prosecutors said.

Pisano said that when the child was later placed in foster care, her condition improved.

“Today’s plea holds the defendant publicly accountable for her disturbing conduct, while providing some measure of closure, healing and justice for the victim,” said First Assistant District Attorney Steven E. Gagne after sentencing.

Bonnie G. Allen, a defense attorney for Gordon, said Gordon “became a target of this district attorney’s office as a consequence of her husband’s criminal conduct.”

The case, Allen said, rested on prosecutors’ theory that the child’s medical problems “were false claims made by her mother, leading to erroneous medical diagnoses and unnecessary procedures conducted by Yale-New Haven Hospital specialists, over a period of 22 months in 2013-2015.” Allen said the medical conditions were genetic and began at birth, and that a defense expert on pediatric genetic disorders would have testified at trial that Gordon acted appropriately.

“This is a case of a devoted mother committed to seeking the best care and treatment for her medically complex child at Yale-New Haven Hospital,” Allen said.

Conley has said that neither he nor his wife harmed his daughter. He confessed to police but recanted his confession during his trial.

“The prosecution admitted Ms. Gordon had nothing to do with her husband’s poisoning of their child, but nonetheless proceeded to blame her for her daughter’s genetically based medical syndromes. I thought the days of such antiquated chauvinist notions of mother-blaming were in the past,” Allen said in the statement from defense attorneys.

The defense team said Gordon entered a “no contest” plea “as a way to protect her from a potential wrongful conviction and to allow her to continue to assert her innocence.”

The victim’s adopted older sister read a statement to the judge on Wednesday, describing the consequences of years of allegedly unnecessary medical procedures on the young girl’s body and mind. She said the victim is “the strongest person I know.”

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.

Jobs



Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy