Thursday, November 17, 2016 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco—A new father unjustly accused of fracturing his 3-month-old son’s ribs has been acquitted of all charges, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors deliberated 45 minutes Thursday afternoon before finding Ricardo Paz-Rosales, 20, not guilty of felony child abuse and child endangerment with great bodily injury. If convicted, Paz-Rosales faced up to12 years in prison, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Vilaska Nguyen.
Paz-Rosales was arrested July 22, 2015. While the cause of the baby’s injuries could not be definitively determined, they were possibly due to a front harness baby carrier, Nguyen said. Several days before his arrest, Paz-Rosales took his son out in the new carrier for the first time. After smiling in photographs for his then-girlfriend, Paz-Rosales and his son went to visit family.
Over the next several days, however, Paz-Rosales and his girlfriend noticed a crackling sound in their new baby’s breathing. Although the baby did not have any visible injuries and was not crying more than normal, the worried new parents took him to a clinic to investigate.
The medical staff initially dismissed the sound as indigestion, but Paz-Rosales and his girlfriend insisted on an X-Ray. The results showed the infant had eight fractured ribs.
Paz-Rosales, a restaurant worker with no criminal history, was interrogated at the hospital. The new father maintained he didn’t know how the baby was injured but suggested to police that perhaps he had used the carrier wrong. After being told repeatedly by officers that he caused his son’s injuries, a distraught Paz-Rosales agreed that he felt guilty. Police arrested him.
During the weeklong trial, prosecutors argued that Paz-Rosales, resentful over having to drop out of college to support his child, took the baby out of the carrier and squeezed him until the boy’s ribs cracked. By the end of the trial, the district attorney had abandoned the theory, stating simply that Paz-Rosales at some point squeezed him too hard, Nguyen said.
The baby’s mother took the stand, testifying that although she and Paz-Rosales are no longer a couple, he is “a good father, partner, and companion.”
Paz-Rosales also testified, weeping when he spoke about his deep love for his son. Paz-Rosales, who had been out on bail, was unable to see his child for five months following his arrest and has since only been allowed supervised visits.
“The prosecution of Mr. Paz-Rosales was a travesty,” Nguyen said. “He was the one who insisted on proper investigation of his son’s health, yet he ended up in jail for a crime that never happened.”
Adachi said the case highlights the dangers of coercive interrogations.
“Any parent would feel guilty if their newborn was injured. But that feeling is not evidence of having committed a crime. Fortunately, Mr. Paz-Rosales had a public defender who fought for him and a jury that listened. He can now put this tragedy behind him and focus on the joys of fatherhood,” Adachi said.