A Garden City man convicted of aggravated endangerment of a child was sentenced Wednesday in Finney County District Court to 26 months in prison.
Jurors in February identified aggravating factors that supported a harsher sentence for Elias Allen, 32. The harsher sentence was requested by prosecutors because Allen was found to have a fiduciary responsibility to the special needs child in the case, who is the son of Allen's girlfriend, Kiala Pollman, 27, and because the child was exceptionally vulnerable due to his age and reduced physical and mental capacity.
Allen and Pollman were arrested in August 2017 on allegations of attempted second-degree murder, charges that were later reduced to child abuse. Police said the couple neglected the child, resulting in extreme malnourishment and dehydration.
District Judge Ricklin Pierce explained that the upward departure in the sentence doubled the standard sentencing range from 13 to 15 months to 26 to 30 months, given Allen’s criminal history. Pierce opted for 26 months instead of 30 because he said he believes Allen truly loves the child.
Pierce referenced a photo submitted as evidence by the defense that depicted Allen and the child smiling together at a birthday party, and said he believed there was no malice inherent to the crime.
Pierce described the basis of the crime instead as deprived indifference, gross negligence and recklessness, adding that there is a “good chance” the child could have died.
“I take seriously verdicts by the jury,” he said. “The jury spent time on this matter on the sentencing phase, and therefore their recommendation was an upward departure. This court is going to order an upward departure.”
Before sentencing was passed down, defense counsel Cheryl Stewart noted that Allen’s behavior leading up to the hospitalization and near death of his girlfriend’s son, who he was caring for actively at the time, could easily be considered reckless. But, she said, there was no evidence that he did anything to intentionally harm the child.
“My client did what he could to take care of that child and maintain that child,” Stewart said. “He did not treat him harmfully. The evidence was very clear about that.”
Stewart requested a softer sentence that could have included probation. She said Allen could work with community corrections and child services on the ongoing child in need of care case, contending that would be more beneficial to the public and Allen than sentencing him to prison “where he wouldn’t be able to work on those issues.”
Tamara Hicks objected to the request, noting that doctors at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City didn’t even know if the child, who has severe Down syndrome, would survive.
She added that the Kansas Department of Children and Families had been working with the family since 2012, after Allen was sentenced to about three years in prison for aggravated intimidation of a witness and child abuse, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections, in a case related to a different child.
“I don’t see how they could provide anything more to him now than they did in this entire time they were working with him at the time this child starved down to 10 pounds,” Hicks said.
Hicks noted that Allen was the child’s primary care provider while Pollman worked to provide financial support for the family over the period when the child’s weight loss increased.
Stewart requested that Pierce refrain from giving Allen a harsher sentence on the basis that case workers and a local doctor who saw the child in the days leading up to his hospitalization did not find the child’s condition alarming enough to intervene.
“The other people, they were there as safeguards,” Stewart said. “They didn’t safeguard the child.”
Stewart unsuccessfully requested at the conclusion of her statement that Allen be sentenced to 14 months in prison.
Pollman took a plea deal in February to testify at Allen’s trial and was convicted of one count of child abuse, a level-five person felony. She was sentenced to 36 months probation and 50 hours of community service. A child abuse conviction usually carries a standard prison sentence between two and a half to more than 11 years in prison.
A week after Pollman took the plea deal, Allen was found guilty of aggravated endangerment of a child but not child abuse. The state had requested that the jury find him guilty of both charges.
Before proceeding to trial, Allen had been offered a plea deal that could have resulted in a 10-year prison sentence, the minimum he would have been eligible for if found guilty of child abuse, given his criminal history.
At the conclusion of Wednesday's sentencing, Allen embraced Pollman and kissed her before saying goodbye. In tears, Pollman declined to comment on Allen's sentence.
Allen accrued 233 days of jail-time credit through time already spent in custody. He was granted eligibility for 20 percent goodtime credit and will be subject to 12 months of post-release supervision.
Contact Mark Minton at firstname.lastname@example.org.