Monday, March 16, 2015

Dad gets 10 years for killing infant son (Chesterfield, Virginia)

Dad is identified as BRADLEY W. SIMMONS.

Dad gets 10 years for baby's death
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Mar 13, 2015, 10:39
CHESTERFIELD — A father who pleaded guilty to the death of his infant child was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Bradley W. Simmons, 24, who was living in Chesterfield at the time of his arrest, was originally charged with the second-degree murder of his less than two-month-old son and pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter in August 2014.

In March of 2013, Jayden, the infant son, was taken to the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center with injuries related to head trauma, formerly referred to as “Shaken Baby Syndrome.”

Authorities stated that Simmons offered varying accounts of what happened to the child, reporting that the baby fell off the bed, was hit in the head accidentally by a video game controller and that he shook the baby when it was unresponsive to try and revive him, among others.

Jayden died days later at the hospital, and Simmons has been held in jail since the incident occurred.

The prosecution, led by Chesterfield Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Erin Barr, argued that the medical facts show that Simmons committed a violent and aggressive act, shaking the baby so hard that a medical expert said the injuries are consistent with that of a high speed rollover accident.

“The death of a 5-week-old [child] is a worst case scenario. ... That’s what the maximum punishment is meant for,” Barr said, before asking the judge to sentence Simmons to 10 years in prison.

The defense, headed by attorney Sara Gaborik, argued that Simmons never intended the death of his own child, and that prior to the child being shaken he was unresponsive.

“While it may have been negligent ... it was because the child was unconscious,” Gaborik said, adding that Simmons did not have any criminal record prior to this incident.

Gaborik added that she watched Simmons cry in regards to his son’s death, and has value as a “productive citizen” in the future.

“This is a man who shows remorse. He shows remorse today,” Gaborik said, asking the judge to sentence no higher than time served.

Simmons stood before the court on the afternoon of Feb. 23 and said that not a single day goes by that he doesn’t think about Jaden’s death, and he is now medicated for anxiety and nightmares while incarcerated.

“This situation is the absolute last thing I ever wanted to happen to my son,” Simmons said before receiving his sentence.

He said that he will live with this for the rest of his life and he implored the judge to exercise any amount of leniency on sentencing for which he would be appreciative.

The defense and prosecution both said that they had medical experts who would have testified in court and offered opposing views on the evidence of Jaden’s autopsy.

Gaborik said that the defense would have called in a private practice forensic pathologist who would have testified that the child could have suffered rib fractures at birth which could have been aggravated by falling off the bed and causing the eventual death.

Barr said that the commonwealth would have called in a pediatric expert, the division chairman of pediatric services at the Virginia Medical Center, to testify that the injuries were consistent with having been “violently shaken” and they could not have happened from just falling off a bed.

After looking over the professional history and qualifications for both medical experts, Judge Steven C. McCallum found the commonwealth’s expert to hold greater weight based on the fact that the majority of his profession deals with the subject matter at hand whereas only a portion of the defense’s expert’s field relates to the pediatric autopsies.

McCallum sentenced Simmons to 10 years imprisonment in Chesterfield Circuit Court on Feb. 23, the maximum punishment for a class 5 felony, and a $2,500 fine.

Although the sentencing guidelines called for a period between no incarceration and six months in jail, McCallum called this “grossly disproportionate” to the facts presented to him in the case.

The judge stated that it is an established fact of the case that Simmons killed his son as a result of intentional acts, backed by “extensive medical evidence” showing bleeding and swelling in the child’s brain, therefore constituting adequate grounds for a voluntary manslaughter sentence.

McCallum rattled off a number of aggravating factors that supported his decision including the extremely young age of the child, the fact that a parent has a legal duty to protect their own child, “the complete lack of provocation by the victim” and that because this was not Simmons’s first child he should have already known how to properly raise a child.

McCallum said that he has “given this case as much thought as I could,” adding that someone can get up to five years in jail just for killing a chicken, before deviating high above the guidelines and sentencing Simmons to the maximum 10 years imprisonment for a class 5 felony.

Jaden’s maternal grandmother testified that the child’s death has caused a great deal of division within the family, and that it’s been hard for both her and her daughter to get back on their feet since it happened.

“I still love you, Brad,” she said on the witness stand while looking over to the defense table.

Simmons placed his head in his palms looking down at the floor on several occasions during the trial.

Brooke Sadler, the mother of Simmons’s first child, testified that Simmons was just as excited to be a father to their daughter as he was with Jaden.

“For as young as we both [were], he was an amazing dad,” Sadler said of Simmons, adding that he never displayed any anger issues with either her or their daughter.

Simmons’s mother, Mary, described her son as a “very loving father” and remembered the moment in the hospital when Jayden was born.

Bradley “was like a big kid” when he came running out of the room to tell me that he had a boy, Mary testified, adding that afterward he would often talk about how much he loved Jaden.

A recording of a phone call between Simmons, after he was first arrested, and Jayden’s mother was played during the trial.

Jayden was still alive in the hospital during the time of the recording, and Simmons could be heard saying “I miss him. Make sure you tell him that I love him.”