WESTMINSTER — A Taneytown man who has already served 500 hours of community service for abusing his stepson has been convicted for a second time of thelesser charge in the case.
For the second time in almost two years, the 28-year-old man stood up last week in Carroll Circuit Court and denied burning his stepson with hot water on Easter Sunday 1989.
Prosecutors say the man, whose name is being withheld by The Carroll County Sun to protect the identity of the child, purposely sprayed his 3-year-old stepson with hot water through a bathroom shower attachment, causing second-degree burns over 12 percent to 15 percent ofthe boy's body.
In November 1989, a Carroll jury agreed with prosecutors and convicted the man of one count of child abuse and one count of assault and battery.
He was sentenced last February by Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. to 15 years at the Department of Corrections in Baltimore, but all of that time was suspended in favor of five years supervised probation and the community service.
But about three months after the sentence was handed down,
the man hired Frederick attorney Lawrence E. Finegan to file a motion for a new trial, claiming new evidence showed that statements made by state witnesses in the case were false.
"The case was based upon perjured testimonyand statements from a very young child (the victim's brother) who was coached," the motion for a new trial says.
The victim's aunt overheard the 5-year-old brother being told by his mother what to say incourt, Finegan maintained.
And while the mother testified the family was abused, the aunt said in an affidavit that her sister had told her the defendant never abused anyone.
Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill countered that the aunt's written testimony was not new evidence because she had been on the state's trial witness list, giving the defense an opportunity to question her.
Hill also said the testimony would be disqualified in court because it was hearsay.
After hearing both arguments in August 1990, Burns decided to grant the man a new trial.
That trial was set to begin before Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold Thursday morning, but was stopped just after a jury was chosen.
To avoid going through the trial for the second time and risking another conviction on the child abuse charge, the man entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery and the state dropped the abuse count.
In an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges the state has enough evidence to convict, with out admitting guilt.
In the statement of facts Hill read into the record, the stepfather told his wife the boy burned himself in the bathtuband then refused to let him be admitted to the hospital when his mother took him to be checked out by doctors. Medical records and photosof the boy's burns also were entered into evidence.
After hearingthe facts, Arnold accepted the Alford plea, and found the man guilty.
The law does not set a specific amount of time in prison for assault and battery.
Hill said she and Senior Assistant State's Attorney Edward Ulsch plan to ask the judge to impose whatever penalty thepre-sentence investigation recommends.
The man, who is estrangedfrom his wife, is to be sentenced May 22.