Ari Burack, Bay City News
A San Francisco man accused of causing the death of his infant son was charged today with felony assault on a child, though his attorney maintained it was a tragic accident.
Karl Aspelin, 39, is suspected by police of violently shaking his 4-month-old son Johan on Nov. 8 at their home in the 500 block of Vicente Street. The boy was hospitalized and was taken off life support over the weekend.
Aspelin was arrested two days after the incident, and prosecutors today charged him with felony assault on a child causing death, which carries a potential sentence of 25 years to life in prison, according to the district attorney's office. He is also charged with felony child endangerment.
He was being held today under psychiatric observation at San Francisco General Hospital.
His attorney, Stuart Hanlon, said his client would be released from the hospital and brought to jail soon, so his arraignment was postponed until Wednesday. He is being held on $2 million bail.
"It's a tragic case," Hanlon said by phone this afternoon. "Every piece of evidence we have is that he's a loving and wonderful father. It just seems the prosecution has jumped the gun here as to what occurred."
According to Hanlon, Aspelin runs his own software company in San Francisco and had just returned home that day from day care.
He trying to calm the infant, who was crying, when he heard a crash in the kitchen, where his other child, a 2-and-a-half-year-old, and the family dog were, Hanlon said.
In the kitchen, Aspelin saw the older child and the dog on the floor in the middle of some spilled food, and when he bent down with his infant in his arms, slipped and fell backwards, and the baby tumbled to the floor, Hanlon said.
Aspelin then called 911, according to Hanlon.
The call "will show that he was totally freaked out and hysterical" about the incident, Hanlon said.
Prosecutors were not immediately available to respond today to Hanlon's contentions.
Hanlon also questioned the accusation by police of "shaken baby syndrome."
"We're being contacted already by numerous doctors in the field that say the theory has been debunked," he said. "We'll get our experts to look at the evidence and try to figure out what happened."
In the meantime, Hanlon said he will file a motion to reduce bail for his client, whom he said has not had the chance to begin grieving the death of his son.
"When a child dies, I think the process of a family is just devastating," Hanlon said. "And without any real evidence...they've taken his family apart."