Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dad convicted of felony child abuse for puncturing baby's throat; gets 30 months in prison (Williamsburg, Virginia)

Dad is identified as ROBERT E. HAAS IV.


James City father will serve 30 months for damage to child's throat

By Susan Robertson The Virginia Gazette
8:17 a.m. EST, November 25, 2014

WILLIAMSBURG — A James City father convicted of sticking a finger down his baby's throat and causing serious injury was sentenced Monday to two and a half years in prison.

In July Robert E. Haas IV, 28, was found guilty of felony child abuse by a jury. The panel recommended the 30-month prison sentence and a $1,000 fine. On Monday, Circuit Judge Michael E. McGinty upheld and imposed the sentencing recommendation, noting that he felt it was appropriate.

"He took his finger and shoved it down his infant child's throat," said Maureen Kufro, assistant commonwealth's attorney, as she reminded the court of the facts of the case. "So forcefully that it punctured the throat."

At trial the child's mother testified she was getting ready for work when she heard her daughter coughing, then entered the living room to find her in Haas's arms spitting up blood. She added that Haas told her not to dial 911.

She told the court that while at the hospital, Haas said he believed the baby was choking and tried to clear her airway. The baby was transferred from Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center to Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk for specialized care, according to her mother, who said at that time there was still no indication of what causing the bleeding.

Doctor's scoped the baby's throat and found the cause of the bleeding — a 11/2 centimeter laceration to the muscle at the back of the throat, according to Dr. Norrell Atkinson, a former child abuse pediatrician at CHKD. She said blunt force trauma was the cause of the injury.

At CHKD, Haas became nervous, according to the child's mother. She said he stated "it's all my fault" and later admitted to sticking his finger down their daughter's throat.

In a Feb. 11 interview with James City County Social Services, Haas recounted the incident. Tina Sawyer, a social worker, testified that Haas told her sticking his finger down the baby's throat caused the bleeding.

Defense attorney Patrick Bales asked McGinty to consider allowing Haas to complete the therapy program he was engaged in before he began serving his sentence. Mark Mortier, a counselor at Genesis Counseling Center, said Haas had been coming to the center since February to seek help in balancing his emotions and cultivating life coping skills. He added that Haas and his wife were also in couples therapy.

Haas was intellectually tested as part of the therapy program and demonstrated an I.Q. of 74. According to Mortier, 70 is intellectually disabled. He noted Haas was about 5 weeks away from completing the program.

Asked by Kufro what the benefit of completion would be if Haas was going to spend 21/2 years in prison, Mortier said the skills he'd acquired might help him cope in prison. Kufro argued against delaying the start of Haas's sentence, and she asked the time begin immediately. She said, regardless of the therapy, Haas didn't deserve that mercy.

"He wanted a jury trial," she said. "He got it, and now he has to face the consequences."