Child Endangerment Case Postponed Again Due to Prosecution’s Failure to Produce Discovery Files to Defense

| January 26, 2023

VENANGO CO., Pa (EYT) – The child endangerment case against an Oil City woman has been extended once again following a hearing in which the embattled mother was prepared to enter a no-contest plea.

(Photo above: Cain and Emily Layman outside the Venango County Courthouse.)

According to court documents, 23-year-old Emily Layman was scheduled for Plea Court, which is a hearing in which a defendant can enter a guilty or not guilty plea.

“It didn’t really go the way we expected,” Layman told

Layman said during the hearing, when President Judge Marie T. Veon asked her if she had any questions, she replied, “Well, yeah. Why haven’t I received my discovery?”

According to Layman, when Judge Veon learned that the prosecution hadn’t shared their criminal discovery files, she put an end to the hearing.

“(Judge Veon) said, ‘Well, we can’t continue this. We can’t do this without you having received your discovery packet,’” Layman added.

Two witnesses who have asked to remain anonymous but were in court for the hearing have confirmed Layman’s story to Multiple calls to the District Attorney’s Office for comment have gone unanswered.

In any criminal proceeding, the defense is entitled to know about certain parts of the prosecution’s case before trial. The prosecution is generally required to turn over documents, reports, tests, and other items that are material to the case and relevant to developing a defense. This includes exculpatory evidence the prosecution may have, known as “Brady material.” Not doing so may be a violation of law.

A Brady violation can lead a court to drop all charges, vacate a conviction, and pursue disciplinary actions against the prosecutor.

Layman says she sent an email to Assistant District Attorney Justin Fleeger, who is prosecuting the case and is running for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, requesting the prosecution’s criminal discovery files on October 17th, 2022.

Background on the Case

According to a criminal complaint filed on May 4, 2022, in Magisterial District Judge Matthew T. Kirtland’s office, the City of Franklin Police Department received a CYS 104 Form on November 23, 2021, regarding a three-week-old child who was at a Pittsburgh hospital with numerous physical injuries that were suspicious in nature.

According to the complaint, the three-week-old child was presented to a Pittsburgh hospital on November 22, 2021, due to vomiting blood. The child was found to allegedly have bruises on the shins and upper back. The affiant–a detective of Franklin Police Department–noted these injuries are concerning for physical abuse due to patterned-injury bruises in a non-mobile child. It was noted that the injuries allegedly caused substantial pain.

The following conditions were allegedly stated: male extreme fussiness since birth; fussy and vomiting at baseline; fussier and vomiting blood since Saturday, November 20, 2021 (two days). The exam listed the patient as “well…except bruising.”

The preliminary read from the x-ray listed possible right rib fracture (healing) and left metaphyseal femur fracture–pending final read and medical workup. Per the parents, the patient was born with bruises. Per the parents, their primary care physician had previously examined the patient for bruises. The bruises on the patient’s back, per the parents, the child’s brother may have thrown a toy, and it hit the child, according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, the following charges were brought against both Cain Layman and Emily Layman:

  • Endangering Welfare of Children – Parent/Guardian/Other Commits Offense, Felony 1 (two counts)
  • Aggravated Assault – Victim Less Than 6 and Defendant 18 or older, Felony 2 (two counts)
  • Simple Assault, Misdemeanor 1 (two counts)
  • Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Misdemeanor 2 (two counts)

Charges Against Cain Layman Dropped

Charges against Cain Layman were withdrawn during a preliminary hearing on July 28, 2022, following testimony from two witnesses.

The first witness, Dr. Matthew Valente, MD, gave expert testimony on the medical findings regarding the possible abuse of the three-week-old child. Dr. Valente, a pediatric doctor at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and member of the National Children’s Advocacy Center, described how the injuries were found on the child through multiple X-rays and MRIs. Dr. Valente told the court of his lengthy history involving suspected child abuse cases and related that the injuries found on Layman’s child were “diagnostic of physical abuse” beyond a reasonable degree of certainty.

The defense challenged Dr. Valente on many topics, including his lack of knowledge concerning blood disorders that the parents and other expert witnesses claim the child has.

The second witness brought forth by the prosecution was Charles Albaugh, Venango County Children & Youth Services case worker. Albaugh testified of his dealings with both Emily Layman and Cain Layman in the early stages of the investigation. Albaugh’s report of suspected child abuse (CYS 104 Form) was entered as evidence by the prosecution, and his testimony revolved around that report.

Following the hearing, Emily Layman told, “I think honestly they’re grasping at straws at this point.

“(The prosecution) has no solid evidence to hold onto. They dropped the charges against (Cain Layman) because they don’t have anything on him, but they’re holding onto stereotypical things.”

Lesser Charges Offered to Emily Layman

According to Layman, the District Attorney’s Office offered her a plea deal in October 2022. If she pleaded guilty to one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child Less Than 6 years Old, a 2nd degree felony, enrolled in parenting classes, obtained a mental health assessment, and engaged in counseling/mental health services, the Commonwealth would drop the original charges and would not object to a nine to 16 month house arrest.

Layman agreed to the deal and began completing its terms. Last week, she finished her parenting classes.

“Literally the only reason I took the plea is because I can’t afford the fight. I just can’t do it,” she said. “We do not qualify for a public defender because we make too much money. We’ve applied twice and have been denied.”

Layman says if her case were to go to trial, she has been told it would likely last 15 days. The longer the trial, the more expensive it would become for the young couple. She said she learned this week that a second degree felony in the State of Pennsylvania could come with a fine of “not less than $5,000.00 nor more than $25,000.00,” meaning the plea could end up almost as expensive as a trial.

Moving Forward

In light of the missing discovery packet, the hearing has been continued until February 21. Meanwhile, Layman says she is complying with the conditions of her bail.

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Category: Local News, News

Gavin Fish is a reporter for EYT Media Group and YouTuber based in Venango County. In addition to his YouTube Channel, he has contributed to investigations and reports for ABC News, Investigation Discovery, and Fox Nation, and has collaborated on projects developed for Netflix, Oxygen, Discovery Channel, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
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