SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Camp Pendleton Marine pleaded guilty Tuesday to dropping and shaking his infant son, causing irreversible damage to the child's right eye and brain injuries.
James Lewis Charles, 31, will be sentenced to nine years in state prison on Dec. 2.
Judge Robert F. O'Neill allowed Charles to remain free on $500,000 bail pending sentencing, but ordered the defendant to have no contact with his son Owen, now 2, and a newborn son, Grant.
Charles pleaded guilty to felony child abuse causing great bodily injury on the day his case was set for trial.
The defendant could have faced as much as 15 years behind bars if convicted at trial, said Deputy District Attorney Tracy Prior.
"This is the right result for a baby who was irreversibly injured at the hands of his father," the prosecutor said.
Charles was arrested in December 2008 after he took Owen to a hospital.
During an earlier hearing, sheriff's Detective Leonel Gurrola testified that he interviewed Charles at the hospital and later at the defendant's Poway home. The detective said Charles admitted to tossing his son onto a hard surface about 30 times and to shaking the baby.
According to court document prepared for trial, Charles repeatedly shook, tossed, slammed and hurt the boy from the time he was 16 days old until he was 3 months old.
Owen's injuries included a skull fracture, hand fracture, bleeding in the eyes, bleeding in the brain, swelling in the brain and multiple bruises over time, the document states.
The child will never get his eyes healed or vision restored to what it should be and will need aggressive eye therapy for the rest of his life. The toddler also lives with a metal shunt in his brain connected to seven feet of plastic catheter in his abdomen because of the inflicted injuries, according to the document.
According to the prosecution, the child would have died without medical intervention to relieve massive pressure on his brain due to non-accidental trauma.
The defendant said his wife returned to work eight days after Owen was born in September 2008, and the child was injured on his watch.
The defendant told authorities that Owen rolled off the bed when he was 16 days old, according to the court document.
On another occasion, Charles' wife said her husband told her that the baby hit his head on a picture frame when the defendant tripped over a pair of shoes while holding him.
Defense attorney Vikas Bajaj told the judge that Charles has completed parenting and anger management classes as part of a Family Court order, giving the defendant the tools to become a better father in the future.
"Grant is the best thing in his (Charles') life," Bajaj said.
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