January Neatherlin, the Bend woman accused of drugging and abandoning children at her illegal day care center to visit a tanning salon, is attempting to reach a plea deal before her trial begins in April.
A settlement conference has been scheduled Feb. 20 in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
Neatherlin’s defense lawyer Angela Lee-Mandlin requested the conference in hopes of reaching an agreement with the prosecution before the four-week trial is scheduled to begin.
“A settlement conference would be beneficial, in part by not using the court’s valuable time for a lengthy trial when resolution would likely be reached through a settlement conference,” Lee-Mandlin wrote in court documents.
Lee-Mandlin was unavailable for comment. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said he never discusses plea negotiations in any case.
“I’m not going to say anything about the settlement aspect of this case,” Hummel said.
Neatherlin, 32, was arrested March 15 after police found seven children younger than 5 drugged and unattended at her Little Giggles Daycare in Bend while she was at a tanning salon.
She remains in custody on $750,000 bail.
Neatherlin, who has several felony identity-theft convictions under the names January Livsey and January Brooks, was indicted on 122 charges of first-degree criminal mischief, first-degree criminal mistreatment and recklessly endangering another person.
While in custody since March, Neatherlin allegedly tried to convince three inmates to confess to the crimes, offering one $50,000, according to court documents. She could face additional charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment and recklessly endangering another person for trying to implicate the three inmates in jail.
Since her arrest, Neatherlin has cycled through multiple court-appointed defense lawyers.
She had a falling out with her first appointed lawyer Matthew L. Baughman, of Kollie Law Group in Bend. She wrote a letter to the court in October complaining about the representation.
“I don’t trust my current attorney and I feel that is very important specially in a case like mine,” Neatherlin wrote. “I don’t feel Mr. Baughman is taking my case very seriously nor do I feel like his office finds my case very important.”
Neatherlin went on to write in her letter that her bail of $750,000 was excessive for, “a single mom of two amazing kids.”
“Most people these days don’t even make close to 10 percent of that in an entire year,” Neatherlin wrote. “I could go on with issues I have been facing with my current public defender but I won’t.”
Baughman withdrew Oct. 24, citing Oregon ethics laws that explain withdrawing is appropriate and necessary when a client and lawyer cannot resolve a dispute.
“It is best for Ms. Neatherlin to have new council (sic) appointed as soon as practicable to be prepared for trial,” Baughman wrote in court documents.
Neatherlin was then appointed lawyer Daniel E. Yeager, of the Bend Attorney Group, but he withdrew because a conflict of interest in the case.
Lee-Mandlin was appointed in November to represent Neatherlin.
In January, Lee-Mandlin requested a co-counsel be appointed to assist in the case, especially if the settlement conference is unsuccessful and the case moves to trial.
“I believe that in a case such as this having at least two attorneys who are up to speed on the facts of the case and who understand the law in these situations is essential so that a synthesis of ideas may be accomplished,” Lee-Mandlin wrote in court documents.
Lee-Mandlin asked the court to postpone the trial until June to have a psychological evaluation completed on Neatherlin and obtain her medical records for the doctor to review prior to the evaluation. The request was denied by the court.
The case has been postponed three times by Neatherlin’s previous lawyers.
If no plea deal is reached this month, a trial readiness hearing will be held April 5.
The trial is scheduled to begin April 10.
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, firstname.lastname@example.org