#childabuse | Sad story of abuse may end happily

The story of Tondalao Hall is sad on many levels, and frustrating. It’s also important and timely, given that this is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Hall, 35, has been in prison since 2006 for failing to protect her two young children from their abusive father, who was her boyfriend at the time. Under Oklahoma law, enabling child abuse is a felony and can carry stiff sentences including life in prison. Hall was given 30 years.

Meantime, her ex-boyfriend, through a plea agreement, received probation and two years of time served awaiting trial — despite admitting that he had broken their 3-month-old daughter’s leg and ribs.

It’s heartbreaking when any child is abused, and that Hall’s children, now 16 and 15, have had to grow up without her in their lives every day. And, it hurts to know the latter didn’t have to happen but for the powerful hold that abusers can have on their victims.

Hall pleaded guilty in October 2006 to four counts of permitting child abuse, in a “blind plea” in which she wouldn’t be sentenced until after testifying in her ex-boyfriend’s trial. Her testimony, however, didn’t sync with what she had told police about the man’s role in hurting her children. It’s safe to assume concern about what revenge he might try to exact contributed to Hall’s altered story.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater points out that Hall’s revised testimony created a bind for the prosecutor who handled the case and for the judge. Continuing with the trial might have led to an acquittal for the ex-boyfriend, and his possibly being given custody of the children. District Judge Ray C. Elliott, meantime, cited Hall’s admission of culpability and her lack of candor on the stand.

Instead of the ex-boyfriend going to prison and Hall going free, the opposite happened.

In 2009, Hall acknowledged her mistake in a letter to Elliott.

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