A Vancouver man accused of causing his infant son’s brain injury was sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail for fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor.
Aaron Thornewood, 39, was originally charged in Clark County Superior Court with first-degree assault of a child, which had a standard sentencing range of 93 to 123 months in prison, court records show. He entered a Newton plea to the lesser charge, which allows a defendant to acknowledge that a jury could find him guilty of that crime but not admit to guilt; it is treated as a guilty plea.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Thornewood’s 5-month-old son was admitted Aug. 20, 2018, to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland after showing signs of head trauma.
Thornewood told police the baby was sitting with his two brothers, 1 and 3 years old, in a child’s activity chair. Thornewood said he heard the two older children arguing over a toy train while he was playing a video game. He then heard a smack and turned to see one of the boys holding the train and the baby slumped over with his head on the chair’s tray, the affidavit says.
According to court records, Thornewood told police he thinks one of the older boys pulled the train from the other’s hand, and the momentum caused the boy to strike the baby in his head. The impact sent the youngest boy toppling, smacking his head on the table tray.
Thornewood said he only heard what happened and that the baby started vomiting a few hours later, according to court records.
The next day, police spoke with the hospital’s child abuse and neglect team’s nurse practitioner. She said the baby’s injuries weren’t consistent with what Thornewood described, court records state.
Doctors found more injuries consistent with a traumatic brain injury, one not explained by an accidental household injury, the affidavit says.
Thornewood had no other plausible explanation for what happened, according to court records.
On Friday, both the prosecution and defense told Judge Jennifer Snider that a trial would’ve come down to a battle of expert witnesses.
Defense attorney Katie Kauffman said some experts she consulted claimed the child’s brain injury could’ve been caused previously or by a pre-existing condition. She said they may never know what happened to the child.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jeff McCarty had requested a sentence of five days in jail, but Snider disagreed with such a low sentence. She noted that Thornewood did not express remorse for what happened to his son while addressing the court.