Former Carpio daycare provider pleads guilty to reduced charge

Former Carpio daycare operator Sarah Babinchak, 35, Carpio, pleaded guilty Friday to a reduced charge of Class A misdemeanor contributing to the deprivation of a minor. She admitted that conditions at her home daycare in December 2019 violated state daycare licensing requirements.

Conditions were too hot for kids, at about 80 degrees, and there were hazards such as uncovered outlets in the home and items left out that might have been a hazard if the daycare kids had reached them. No child was injured as a result of the licensing violations.

The state dismissed two other charges, including Class B felony child abuse and Class B felony aggravated assault on a child under the age of 12, because there wasn’t enough evidence to take the case to trial. Former Ward County Deputy State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz learned this information after speaking with an expert witness but did not tell anyone else in the office. Other prosecutors in the office immediately decided to dismiss the charges after Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher Nelson spoke with the expert witness.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Babinchak was sentenced to 360 days in jail, all suspended but the eight days she has already served, and 18 months of supervised probation. She was also ordered to pay $325 in court costs and to have no contact with certain people except at school or 4-H functions. She also will never operate a day care center.

The case against Babinchak had been scheduled to go to trial later this month.

“So once again your office has put someone needlessly through the wringer,” Judge Todd Cresap told Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney Tiffany Sorgen at Friday’s hearing.

Schwarz lied to Judge Cresap in December in another case about why evidence had not been turned over to the defense as is required. As a result of his lie, the prosecution filed to dismiss a case against a man who had been accused of sexually assaulting a hitchhiker. Taking the case to trial would have violated the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. The man spent about five months in jail, unable to make bond, and the case hung over his head for close to a year. He had steadfastly maintained his innocence. Cresap had expressed his outrage over the matter at a hearing in June.

Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson said the matter would be dealt with when The Minot Daily News inquired about the status of Schwarz’s employment and Schwarz has since left the state’s attorney’s office. Schwarz had previously been fired in 2018 for “gross misconduct and negligence” from his position as McKenzie County chief assistant state’s attorney. Larson told The Minot Daily News that she was aware Schwarz had been let go by McKenzie County but Larson checked Schwarz’s references before she decided to hired him as deputy state’s attorney and they were good. She said there was a considerable amount of turmoil in the McKenzie County state’s attorney’s office in 2018.

On Friday at the hearing for Babinchak, Cresap asked Sorgen if her office has filed a report against Schwarz with a disciplinary board. Sorgen said she planned to ask Larson about that.


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