Aug. 27, 2010 By JOHN WHARTON
A St. Mary's judge slashed the bond requirement Thursday for a child abuse suspect's pretrial release from $300,000 to $5,000 cash.
"I have no worry about the defendant being here when he's supposed to be here, … [or] causing any harm to any other member of the community," St. Mary's Circuit Judge C. Clarke Raley said at the bond review hearing for Brian Thomas Hart Jr., a 21-year-old sailor at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
St. Mary's detectives allege that Hart's 4-month-old baby girl suffered head injuries and fractured ribs during multiple incidents before she died earlier this month.
Brooke Leigh Hart was born prematurely last March, the investigators report, and she remained at a Baltimore hospital's neonatal intensive care unit for more than three months before she was released to her parents at their home in the Glenn Forrest housing area.
The child was taken to St. Mary's Hospital on Aug. 7, court papers state, and she was transferred to the Georgetown University Medical Center, where doctors told detectives that the infant had injuries consistent with child abuse.
The child died on Aug. 12, and an autopsy the next day found seven rib fractures on her left side, three rib fractures on her right side and head injuries including a subdural hematoma, according to a statement of probable cause filed by Cpl. William Raddatz of the St. Mary's Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
The detective wrote in charging papers that Brian Hart admitted picking the baby up "with great force" and shaking her to get her to go to sleep, and in a separate incident, again picking her up forcefully, allowing her head to snap back.
A court commissioner originally jailed Hart this month in lieu of $500,000 bond on the charge of first-degree child abuse resulting in death, reduced last week in district court to a $300,000 bond requirement.
At Thursday's court hearing, defense lawyer Robert C. Bonsib asked that Hart be released on personal recognizance.
"Under the state's best theory, this was an accident out of an instant frustration," Bonsib said in court. "It was a unique situation that the defendant was faced with."
St. Mary's Assistant State's Attorney Julie White said doctors found evidence of shaken-baby syndrome from the onset when they received the injured child, including dead brain tissue on one side of her head and injuries in "different stages of healing."
The prosecutor said the absence thus far of a completed autopsy report does not negate the evidence of what happened.
"We don't need an autopsy report," White said, in light of the other doctors' reports. "We also have the defendant's confession," she said.
The judge said the case would involve complex medical evidence.
"There is no way that we as judges or lawyers can predict the outcome of this case," Raley said.
The judge noted Hart's "very successful military career," and his family's willingness to bear the expense of hiring a private attorney.
"That tells me that this man isn't going anywhere," the judge said, noting that the defense also will have to pay for expert opinions from its own pathologists. "It's going to cost a small fortune," the judge said.