Originally published January 3, 2011 at 9:44 a.m., updated January 3, 2011 at 10:57 a.m.
SAN DIEGO A Camp Pendleton Marine who dropped and shook his infant son over several months, causing irreversible damage to the child's right eye and brain injuries, was sentenced Monday to nine years in state prison.
James Lewis Charles, 31, pleaded guilty to felony child abuse causing great bodily injury on Oct. 19 and agreed to the punishment. He must serve 85 percent of his semtence before he is eligible for parole.
"This is a case where good people make bad decisions, and do bad things," Judge Robert F. O'Neill said.
Charles was arrested in December 2008 after he took his son Owen, now 2, to Rady Children's 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 tossing his son onto a hard surface about 30 times, as well as shaking the baby.
"The defendant shook, slammed and abused his own baby for over three months,'' Deputy District Attorney Tracy Prior said.
She said Owen's injuries included a skull fracture, hand fracture, bleeding in the eyes, bleeding and swelling in the brain and multiple bruises over time.
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, Prior said. The toddler also lives with a metal shunt in his brain connected to seven feet of plastic catheter in his abdomen because of the injuries his father inflicted, she said.
According to the prosecution, the child would have died without medical intervention to relieve massive pressure on his brain due to non-accidental trauma.
"This case is a paradox," defense attorney Vikas Bajaj said.
He told the judge that his client was law-abiding and served his country, but also took responsibility for Owen's injuries, which occurred soon after the defendant's return from deployment.
According to court documents, 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 documents.
On another occasion, Charles' wife said her husband told her the baby hit his head on a picture frame when the defendant tripped over a pair of shoes while holding him.
Bajaj said Charles, who had been free on bond most of the past two years, has completed parenting and anger management classes as part of a Family Court order, giving the defendant the tools to become a better father.