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Father gets 22 years in child abuse case

June 06, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Charles Herbert Smith, convicted of a first-degree assault that left his seven-week-old son with brain damage, was sentenced Tuesday to 22 years in prison.

Washington County Circuit Judge Donald Beachley also sentenced Smith to a 15-year concurrent sentence for child abuse. A reckless endangerment conviction was merged into the child abuse conviction.

Smith continued to deny that he injured the child.

"I'm not this monster I wouldn't beat up my own son," Smith said just moments before Beachley imposed sentence.

Smith's wife and mother both asked Beachley to show mercy, characterizing Smith as a good husband, a dutiful son and a loving father.

A jury in March convicted Smith in the June 5, 1999, assault that injured his son, Thomas Caleb Smith.

During the trial, four doctors testified that Thomas Smith suffered a traumatic injury to his brain on that date.

There also was testimony that Smith was the only person with the baby during the hours leading up to the injury.

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Doctors at Washington County Hospital found that the infant had 17 fractured ribs, broken legs and pelvis, and nearly a dozen bruises on his body.

He was flown to the University of Maryland Hospital for treatment of those injuries and for a traumatic brain injury.

Photographs showed bruises on the child's face, chin, chest, shoulder and legs.

Thomas Smith, now 14 months old, can barely take solid food or roll over. He is classified as a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy due to traumatic brain damage, according to Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long.

"He suffered his injury on your watch," Beachley told the child's father. "Something happened that morning something snapped."

"I'm proud of him I took him everywhere," Smith, 38, of Hagerstown, said.

Justina Smith told Beachley that she and her husband never wanted this to happen. She described Charles Smith as kind, warm and gentle.

She, too, told Beachley how proud she is her son.

"Thomas is amazing he is so bright," she said. "He is smiling and cooing and he can take two spoonsful of food."

Beachley interrupted.

"Do you hear what you are saying?" Beachley asked, noting that the child is now over a year old and by all medical accounts is severely developmentally disabled because of the injury he received a year ago.

Thomas' mother defended her husband.

"I know Chuck was frustrated with his job but he never hit me and I never saw him hit Thomas," Justina Smith said.

Charles Smith's mother also spoke on his behalf.

"Who speaks for Thomas?" Long asked. "This child is 14 months old and it's unlikely there will be any dramatic improvement - the defendant took that away from him."

The child is in the care of his maternal grandmother.

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