Trial Ordered For Marine Accused Of Dropping, Shaking Infant Son - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Trial Ordered For Marine Accused Of Dropping, Shaking Infant Son

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A Marine accused of dropping his infant son at least 30 times and shaking the baby at least twice -- causing blindness in one eye -- must stand trial on multiple felony child abuse charges, a judge ruled today.

James Charles, 30, faces up to 22 years in state prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Nicole Cooper.

Sheriff's Detective Leonel Gurrola testified during the three-hour preliminary hearing that Charles initially denied dropping his son Owen and said he didn't remember the baby hitting his head on the floor.

The defendant initially told the detective that he had to grab the 16-day-old baby by the arms to keep him from falling off a bed, causing bruising on the child's body, Gurrola testified.

Later, the defendant admitted dropping the child from as high as 4 feet into a "giddy-up" playpen area at least 30 times, five times when he was angry.

Each time he dropped the child, Charles heard a "thump" and knew the baby was injured but he didn't care, the detective said the defendant told him.

"His wife had told him he was too rough with Owen," the detective testified. "He said it hurt (the baby), but he continued doing it."

Charles also admitted shaking the baby "for seconds" on at least two occasions, Gurrola testified.

"He knew it was potentially harmful, but did it anyway," the detective said.

After an initial interview at the hospital last Dec. 19, Charles told the detective he had an anger management problem and took full responsibility for his actions, saying they were unintentional, Gurrola testified.

The baby also had a black eye when he was about a month or two months old, according to court testimony.

Asked why he dropped the child, Charles said it was because the baby was fussy and he (Charles) was clumsy, the detective said.

Charles said he didn't call the police when he hurt the child, according to Gurrola.

"He didn't want it to be reported," the detective testified. "He didn't want to be labeled as an abuser."

Dr. Premi Suresh, a child abuse fellow at Rady Children's Hospital, testified it was impossible for a 16-day-old baby to roll off a bed.

When the 3-month-old boy was brought into the hospital on Dec. 18, he had a large amount of fluid pressing on the brain and bleeding on the brain, causing his head to expand, Suresh testified.

Doctors put a shunt in the boy's brain to relieve pressure, the doctor said.

On further examination, the child had a skull fracture and a broken pinkie finger on his right hand, Suresh testified.

"It's very concerning to see fractures like this on a 3-month-old infant," she testified.

The boy had surgery to remove a hemorrhage from his eye, and an ophthalmologist thought the child might be left with 20/400 vision in his right eye, far worse than legal blindness, Suresh said.

The doctor testified that the boy had a "constellation of injuries" that were inflicted.

Nicole Barber, the victim's aunt, testified that Charles admitted hurting his son,

"He told me, `I deserve what I get for what I did to my son," Barber testified.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Leo Valentine Jr. -- who has a 6-month-old granddaughter -- said the notion that a 16-day-old child could roll off a bed was "absurd."

The judge told Charles -- who is free on $500,000 bail -- that he has accepted responsibility for his actions and to "deal with it the best way you can."

But defense attorney Vikas Bajaj told the judge the defense strongly contests the allegations, saying a potential trial would be a "battle of facts" as to how and when the child was injured.

The attorney said his client was a C-130 technician at Camp Pendleton who completed one tour of duty in Iraq.

After the hearing, Bajaj said he made a conscious effort not to present an affirmative defense at the preliminary hearing.

The attorney said he will present an expert at trial to contest Suresh's medical findings and conclusions.

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