Man sentenced for physical abuse of infant

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Before sentencing Kenneth St. Clair, 23, of Lusby on Monday at the Calvert County Circuit Court for his second-degree child abuse plea, Judge Warren Krug said he looked at the pictures of the bruised face of the infant and said it was horrible. He added that he knew the stresses a crying child could put on someone, but this was an ‘‘11-month-old, defenseless child.”

Defense Attorney Robert Harvey called several character witnesses that testified that St. Clair was ‘‘sweet, not violent, hardworking and good with kids.” One witness, who works with St. Clair for the Calvert County Parks and Recreation, told the court that he has never seen St. Clair get angry and he is good with kids on the ball field. St. Clair currently works as an umpire and at a bowling alley.

Krug said that the witnesses obviously see a different side of the defendant and sentenced St. Clair to eight years of incarceration with all but 18 months suspended that he will serve in the Calvert County Detention Center.

Harvey asked Krug to ‘‘look at the total picture” and consider that St. Clair has no criminal history, no alcohol or drug dependence, good employment history and no risk factors of criminal behaviors, adding that it was an isolated incident. ‘‘I’m not here to deny what happened was a terrible thing,” Harvey said before he asked for probation or home arrest for St. Clair because incarceration would be difficult for him because of his background as a correctional officer.

Krug denied Harvey’s request saying, ‘‘Home detention is not appropriate here.” ‘‘You are fortunate you’re not here on the death or serious injury to the child,” Krug said to St. Clair regarding the injuries he caused his step-son.

Assistant State’s Attorney Frances Longwell reminded the court of the extent of the infant’s injuries, including a fractured skull, jaw and ribs, and bruises on his face, chest and foot.

The abuse happened more than once and Longwell asked for the maximum sentence state guidelines allowed which is 15 years incarceration, she said.

The mother of the infant took him to Calvert Memorial Hospital on Dec. 14, 2006, after she saw that he was seizing, vomiting over himself and struggling to breathe, charging documents state. The hospital notified the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office of the suspected child abuse and the infant’s numerous injuries were investigated by Child Protective Services and the Calvert Investigative Team, according to police records.

The infant’s primary-care physician said that the child never had any injuries prior to the times St. Clair was in the presence of the child, Longwell told the court.

Longwell also recalled a statement made by St. Clair which said, ‘‘I never meant to take my stress out on the baby.” He can’t control his temper and took it out on the baby, Longwell said, he has to be punished for what he did.

Longwell also gave testimony of a doctor who examined the infant who said that the infant must have been given an ‘‘extremely hard push” to sustain the severe trauma to his head.

St. Clair entered an Alford plea on Dec. 12, 2007, for second degree child abuse in which he does not admit guilt, but agrees the state can prove that the offense took place.

A count for first degree child abuse was dismissed after Harvey successfully argued that the court could not prove that St. Clair was either the parent, permanent caregiver, or temporary caregiver of the infant, which is required for a first-degree child abuse offense.

Along with time in the Calvert County Detention Center, Krug’s sentence included five years of supervised probation afterwards, no contact with the victim or the victim’s family, and no unsupervised contact with a child under 12 years of age.

After the sentencing, Harvey told Krug that St. Clair’s girlfriend is expecting his child, so Krug said that the supervised contact would not include his minor child.