Severn man gets 55 years in fatal child-abuse case

Several people witnessed abuse but did nothing to help

December 07, 2010|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

A Severn man who admitted that he fatally beat his former girlfriend's son while taking care of the toddler was sentenced Tuesday to 55 years in prison by a judge who called it "disgraceful" that no adult who saw or suspected abuse sought to rescue the boy.

"It may be this tragedy could have been avoided if some adult who saw this pattern of abuse had done something," Circuit Judge Paul A. Hackner said before sentencing Andre Clay Russell Jr. in the death of Charles "Mike Mike" Bradley. "And that makes this even more tragic because this wasn't a one-time incident that could not have been predicted."

Russell, 29, had pleaded guilty in June to child abuse resulting in death and child abuse in the killing of the 3-year-old. When the boy died in August 2009, physicians found serious wounds of various ages from his head to his legs, according to Anne Arundel County Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Rogers.

"I think it's a lesson for all of us," Rogers said after the sentencing, noting that "perhaps we would not have been here today" if someone had intervened.

In April or May of 2009, the boy's mother noticed bruises on the child's legs. Soon after, Russell's father witnessed his son hitting the boy. In July, Russell took the boy to a hospital for head injuries, but used a fake name. Later in the summer, a woman friend saw Russell repeatedly punch the boy, including in the face.

Finally, the 10-year-old girl who had made Mike Mike a sandwich when Russell locked the hungry boy in a closet witnessed what experts believed were the fatal blows. Curled up in bed after that incident, he told her, "I hurt," Rogers said.

"He is a worthless piece of [expletive]," Orielle Baker, the child's mother said after the sentencing. Prosecutors said Baker and Russell had a relationship and were friends, and that Russell was supposed to take care of her son last year while Baker was hospitalized.

"There is not a day that I don't second-guess myself for the choices I make for the well-being of my children," Baker wrote in a statement that Rogers read in court. She wrote that she mourns daily, that her 5-year-old son is having emotional difficulties, and that they both are receiving professional help.

Russell, 29, received the maximum sentence for his guilty pleas in June to child abuse resulting in death and child abuse. However, he has denied abusing the boy on Aug. 7, 2009, the day the fatal abuse took place. Hackner said he wouldn't be surprised if Russell tries to appeal by claiming that his lawyer told him to plead guilty.

In a statement read by his lawyer in court, Russell apologized to Baker.

A psychologist for the defense, Jerome Rubin, said Russell was the victim of childhood abuse and neglect by his father. He said Russell was in denial about what happened to the child. He told police in his second statement that intruders came into the place he rents, took the boy and left him outside.

Supportive letters from friends and relatives depicted Russell as a good person, someone trusted to take care of their own children, said Russell's attorney, Jason Silverstein. Exactly how many children Russell may have was not clear.

But Russell is also a child sex offender with a substantial record, Rogers said. He had been out of prison less than a year when Mike Mike died.

Silverstein made a failed request that Hackner suspend all but 15 years of the 55-year prison term and recommend that prison officials consider Russell for a program at Patuxent Institution, a correctional treatment facility.

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