A 31-year-old St. Paul man was sentenced Thursday to nearly five years in prison for shaking and punching his baby so badly that the boy, now almost a year old, is blind in one eye and can’t crawl, sit up or hold his head up.
“This is a tragic case,” said Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Laura Rosenthal as she argued for a high-end sentence of 6¾ years.
Warren Wheeler pleaded guilty in September in Ramsey County District Court to malicious punishment of a child. His attorney, David Paulzine, argued for a lower sentence, noting that Wheeler pleaded guilty early in the case, that the offense was “less serious” than “typical” cases and that Wheeler has “only been on probation twice in his life.”
“He wanted to take responsibility due to the extreme amount of remorse he feels for this offense,” Paulzine said. “The child is improving greatly.
“This is … an incident that was completely out of character, fueled by alcohol, for a loving, doting father.”
Wheeler has three other young children.
Rosenthal said Wheeler didn’t deserve any breaks. Wheeler’s son, then 9 months old, was so badly injured on Sept. 12 that he had to be resuscitated twice in the ambulance while en route to the hospital. He went into seizures and was found to have suffered “significant” brain injuries, she said.
“It’s remarkable that he survived,” Rosenthal said.
The child was released a month later, but continues to suffer serious consequences, she said. In addition to blindness in one eye, the child’s other eye experiences blurry vision, the child has limited use of his right arm and hand and he appears developmentally delayed, Rosenthal said.
“The state does not believe, your honor, that this was an isolated incident,” she said.
According to charges, the boy’s mother told police the baby had been crying a lot for weeks. The woman, who did not attend Wheeler’s sentencing, also told police she had seen him shake and hit the boy in the past for crying.
Wheeler told police he lost his temper and shook the baby, then punched him in the chest because he had stopped breathing, the charges said.
“I’d like to say that I’m remorseful,” Wheeler said before his sentencing.
District Judge Rosanne Nathanson sentenced Wheeler to 58 months, noting that there weren’t “substantial and compelling” reasons to grant either attorney’s request.