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Judge sentences man to 7 years for ignoring abuse

Reginald Keith, whose wife was convicted of beating 13-month-old Christopher Thomas to death and of torturing his 2-year-old sister, was sentenced Tuesday to more than seven years in prison and four years of extended supervision for failing to protect or care for the young girl during her months of abuse.

He will receive credit for the 419 days he has spent in jail during his trial and while waiting to be sentenced, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski said.

Keith's attorney, Glenn O. Givens, said an appeal to the sentence will be filed Wednesday.

"Part of the problem was that this was a neglect case, not abuse," he said.

Givens described Keith as an abused spouse who did not know about all of the abuse his wife, Crystal, had inflicted on the children in his home.

Crystal Keith was sentenced last year to 50 years in prison for torturing Christopher's sister and for Christopher's fatal beating on Nov. 10, 2008.

Reginald Keith, 27, pleaded guilty in January to child neglect causing great bodily harm for failing to seek medical attention for Christopher's sister, referred to in court documents as C.T. The charge is punishable by up to 12 1/2 years in prison.

He also pleaded guilty to child neglect causing bodily harm for failing to ensure that the child was fed. He faced up to six years in prison on the second charge.

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Torbenson said Keith had failed in his responsibility to protect the young girl.

When Keith spoke for himself, he apologized to the judge and his family.

"My family is very important to me," Keith said. "I'm a loving father and uncle. I'd never known this was happening in my household.

"If I would have known, I would have immediately called authorities -- right away."

Borowski acknowledged that Keith had pleaded guilty to what was "largely a crime of omission."

"The defendant in this case was not the monster in this case," Borowski said. "What Crystal Keith did was nothing less than pure evil, in my opinion. What she did to those two children borders on the unspeakable."

But Keith took on a responsibility to protect Christopher Thomas and his sister, C.T. The marks on the arms, legs and face of the 2-year-old displayed obvious signs of abuse that went on for weeks, and Keith did nothing to stop it, Borowski said.

"She was not holding a gun to your head," Borowski said. "You had an opportunity -- many opportunities -- to do something."

Keith could have gone to the sheriff's department or the police. He could have gone to the district attorney's office or the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. And he could have gone to other family members. But he didn't.

"You had to make that decision -- or lack of decision -- every day," Borowski said.

Borowski also blasted the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare for its failure.

"I cannot believe the job the Bureau of Child Welfare did. They did an awful job in protecting the children of this community, but you also are responsible for your part," Borowski told Keith.

State officials had placed the siblings in Crystal Keith's care in June 2008 after a West Allis couple who had been caring for Christopher tried to adopt him. Crystal, 25, is the children's aunt.

Police say Crystal Keith began harming the girl almost as soon as she arrived at the Keiths' home in the 3000 block of S. 12th St. and began abusing Christopher a few months later. According to a medical examiner's report:

The boy and girl were taken from their mother about five months after the boy's birth on Oct. 14, 2007. The mother suffered from mental illness and admitted to shaking her daughter, who was diagnosed at the time with failure to thrive. The mother told police she punished the children twice a day.

The boy's father was arrested in late 2007. He was in custody when Christopher died.

Copyright (c) 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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