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Ex-prosecutor's wife paroled in case of adopted Ethiopian kids; defense calls case a flogging

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PITTSBURGH — The wife of a former state prosecutor who along with her husband was convicted of abusing their adopted Ethiopian children was granted parole Tuesday after she completed her six-month minimum sentence.

Defense attorney Robert Stewart argued that the judge's decision to grant parole should have been "routine" but said the case against Kristen Barbour had become a "public flogging" thanks to talk-radio critics who wanted her treated more harshly.

"She's been treated much harsher than someone else" in similar circumstances, Stewart said. "She's been the subject of repugnant, detestable talk-show hosts and yammering, cockamamie callers."

Barbour, 33, and her husband Douglas, 35, were sentenced in September after pleading no contest to child endangerment counts in June. Douglas Barbour pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts and was given five years' probation. He resigned from the state attorney general's office after the couple was charged in October 2012, and his law license was suspended in February.

The couple was charged after authorities determined their 6-year-old adopted son was malnourished and an 18-month-old girl had multiple head fractures in various stages of healing.

The boy weighed 37.5 pounds, nearly 10 pounds less than when he had been adopted, and told investigators he was forced to eat meals in the bathroom or stand alone in there whenever he soiled his pants. The girl's injuries have never been explained.

Kristen Barbour, a stay-at-home mom who was the children's primary caregiver, received a stiffer sentence of six to 12 months in jail because she pleaded to felony-grade endangerment counts.

Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning arranged for Kristen Barbour to be housed at the Mercer County Jail some 60 miles north of Pittsburgh to allow her to care for the couple's biological children, then 2 and 5, when released 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. The couple's biological children were not abused.

The judge allowed that because Douglas Barbour has been living and working daily at his family's nursery farm in the largely rural county, where Kristen Barbour had also been living before she was sentenced. The couple had lived in the upscale Pittsburgh suburb of Franklin Park before they were charged and convicted.

The judge's decision to allow Kristen Barbour to watch her children during the day while serving her jail sentence prompted talk-radio criticism in Pittsburgh. Kristen Barbour became eligible for parole when she completed her minimum sentence last week.

"We don't do things simply because they're popular," Manning said.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer DiGiovanni didn't object to the release.

Kristen Barbour will be confined to her home while on parole and must still serve an additional four years of probation. Stewart said he'll likely request the home detention be lifted after a few months.

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