URBANA — A Champaign woman accused of striking her girlfriend's children is due back in court with her own attorney later this month.
Paulette James, 27, of the 1700 block of Bloomington Road, was charged Monday in Champaign County Circuit Court with two counts of aggravated battery to a child alleging that she struck two boys during the month of March or April.
James was arrested Friday, April 6, after an investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services and Champaign police that began about a week earlier.
State's Attorney Julia Rietz said a teacher at the Champaign pre-school that the 4-year-old twins attend noticed one of the boys with a cut lip on March 29. He told the teacher that "dad" punched him in the face, Rietz said.
Rietz explained that James has been in a relationship with the boys' mother for about 2 1/2 years and that they refer to her as dad.
"This causes the preschool teacher to call DCFS because the children have reported in the past that they were spanked and they (teachers) recalled that one of the boys had been burned in the past at home. Based on all that, the teachers called DCFS, who along with Champaign police, interviewed the children at the Children's Advocacy Center," Rietz said.
Rietz said the boys were also examined by a Carle doctor who found "multiple injuries on both boys that were indicative of and consistent with being hit with an object such as a belt or extension cord."
"The boys reported Paulette James had done that," Rietz said.
In addition to criminally charging James, who denied harming the children, Rietz's office initiated separate proceedings in abuse and neglect court on Monday.
A judge found it a matter of immediate and urgent necessity that the boys and their three older siblings be removed from the care of their mother temporarily. Rietz said that woman "indicated she was not aware of any of the injuries or the discipline."
"The allegations are abuse to the twins and an injurious environment to the others exposing them to the risk of harm, excessive corporal punishment, and domestic violence," Rietz said.
If convicted of aggravated battery to a child, James faces penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison. She remains free after posting $2,500 in cash as bond. She was ordered to have no contact with the children.