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Misdemeanor Charges Filed Against Father Of Dead Toddler

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SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) _ Misdemeanor assault and battery charges have been filed against the father of a Meeker girl whose child abuse death led to a reform law.

The charges against Lance Briggs, 29, of Meeker, stem from a May 28 confrontation with a former girlfriend. Briggs is accused of assaulting Marie Larson, 24, of Shawnee and Larson's friend, Jackie Wood, of Shawnee.

Larson claims Briggs broke through her front door and attempted to pull her outside by her hair. Wood was cut when Briggs allegedly pushed her into a pile of shattered glass from windows he had broken, police said.

Briggs faces two counts of assault and battery and one count of physical control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated in Pottawatomie County District Court.

Larson said she had hoped prosecutors would consider felony assault charges, rather than misdemeanors.

``If he had broken into a stranger's house and assaulted someone, he would have been charged with felonies,'' Larson said.

A judge has granted Larson a 90-day protective order against Briggs.

Briggs' attorney, Josh Welch, said both women were drunk when an argument erupted and police wrongly chose to believe that Larson and Wood were victims. Briggs denies hitting either of the women, Welch said.

Larson said she and Woods were not intoxicated.

She said Briggs had been harassing her since their eight-month relationship ended in April. She didn't file complaints with police because she feared it would stir up unwanted publicity, Larson said.

The death of Briggs' daughter, Kelsey Smith-Briggs, in October attracted widespread attention, along with several lawsuits filed by her father.

Briggs filed a lawsuit in May against the state Department of Human Services, its director and social workers, blaming a systemwide failure for the 2-year-old's death. He also is suing two Shawnee physicians, claiming they failed to recognize and report Kelsey's abuse.

Prosecutors allege Kelsey died after being hit in the stomach by her stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, 26. Porter is charged with first-degree murder. Briggs' ex-wife, Raye Dawn Smith, faces charges of enabling child abuse and child neglect.

The Legislature this spring passed the Kelsey Smith-Briggs Child Protection Reform Act, which strengthens training of court-appointed child advocates and makes judges more accountable for their rulings in child-placement cases.

It also augments the ability of state agencies, including the DHS and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, to act on behalf of children in abusive homes.

In 2001, Briggs pleaded no contest to an assault and battery charge stemming from an incident with Smith. In exchange for a one-year deferred sentence, Briggs attended anger management and domestic abuse counseling, according to court records.
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