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Father convicted of assault

March 23, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Charles Herbert Smith showed no emotion Thursday afternoon as a Washington County Circuit Court jury convicted him of first-degree assault, child abuse and reckless endangerment for injuries to his infant son last summer.

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Judge Donald Beachley seemed prepared to sentence Smith, 38, of Hagerstown Thursday, but prosecutors and Smith's defense attorney asked for a pre-sentence investigation.

Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long told Beachley he felt the current physical and mental condition of the child, Thomas Caleb Smith, should be a factor in that sentencing.

Now 11 months old, the child was seven weeks old when he was diagnosed with injuries described by three physicans as the result of severe, repeated child abuse.

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Charles Herbert Smith was jailed without bond pending completion of an investigation, that also will delve into his past.

University of Maryland Hospital physician Dr. Robert Englander testified that Thomas Caleb Smith suffered massive brain damage from within minutes to up to two or three hours before he stopped breathing on June 5.

"That timing is critical," Long said during closing arguments Thursday. "The defendant put himself with the child at that critical time on June 5."

Defense attorney Gregory Bannon told the jurors Thursday that the baby had problems from the time of his birth and into June of 1999 when he was taken to Washington County Hospital in respiratory arrest.

It was there that doctors found the infant had 17 fractured ribs, broken legs and pelvis and nearly a dozen bruises on his body. He was flown the University of Maryland Hospital that day.

"There may be a gut reaction to say, that's horrible ... let's get someone," Bannon said. "This family has suffered enough because of misdiagnoses by doctors."

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for four hours Thursday after hearing two full days of testimony.

Smith took the stand Wednesday, denying he hit, squeezed or shook his son.

Smith testified he told a Hagerstown City Police detective he got angry and frustrated with his son and might have been a little rough with him at times.

Testimony and photographs introduced Tuesday showed bruises on the child's face, chin, chest, shoulder and legs.

Family members, including the child's mother, Justina Smith, testified Wednesday that they saw no bruises on the infant until two or three days before June 5.

They also described difficulty feeding the baby, episodes during which his arms and legs become rigid and times when he held his breath until his face turned red in the early weeks of his life.

The child survived his injuries but is developmentally delayed, according to testimony. He will be 1 year old on April 16 and is in the care of his maternal grandmother.

Charles Herbert Smith faces maximum penalties of 25 years in prison for first-degree assault, 15 years for child abuse and five years for reckless endangerment.

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