GREENWICH — Felony charges against a Greenwich day care worker accused of force-feeding a toddler may be erased without a trial if a judge allows her to participate in a court diversionary program for first-time offenders.

During a brief hearing Friday morning before state Superior Court Judge Bruce Hudock, Karen Von Tobel, 56, applied for the accelerated rehabilitation program. If she is accepted and completes the program successfully, the felony counts of risk of injury to a minor and intentional cruelty to a person would be dismissed.

The probationary program for defendants without criminal records can run for as long as two years; if the defendant remains out of trouble with no subsequent arrests, the charges will be dismissed and erased.

“I think after reviewing the evidence and statements from people who know Ms. Von Tobel in personal and professional capacities that applying for this diversionary program is an appropriate step forward in the case,” her attorney, Stephan Seeger, said.

In cases such as this one, the evidence is open to interpretation more so than in other situations, Seeger said.

According to Greenwich police, Von Tobel forced food into the mouth of a 17-month-old youngster at the YMCA of Greenwich Early Learning Center on St. Roch Avenue, “causing the child to cry and choke.” She was arrested Dec. 12 and charged with the two felony counts.

“Detectives from the Special Victim’s Section conducted an investigation which included a video taken by another employee of the incident and interviews of involved parties,” according to the police report. “The video depicts the child having food forced into his mouth while crying, as well as gagging and choking on the food forced into his mouth. An eyewitness corroborated the contents of the video.”

Seeger said that in his interpretation, the video was not very damaging to his client. “This is one of those cases where the video does not speak a thousand words,” Seeger said. “Ms. Von Tobel has never been involved in anything that resembles these allegations. As we move forward with our application the story will become clearer.”

A state review at the facility was initiated after the arrest. According to Child Care & Youth Camp Licensing Investigations, a “corrective action plan” was submitted after the review.

Von Tobel, of Hamilton Avenue, Greenwich, remains free after posting $25,000 court appearance bond.

Police did not release the name of the child-care facility involved, but St. Roch Avenue was listed on the police report. The child-care facility in the west end of Greenwich matched with the state records involved in the follow-up investigation.

jnickerson@stamfordadvocate.com