SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 18, 2013

Defense seeks dismissal of child abuse charges in Salem

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — The attorney for a Salem man charged with the brutal beating and strangling of a 2-year-old girl last March urged a Salem Superior Court judge yesterday to dismiss most of the charges against his client.

The reason offered by Juan Javier Claudio’s lawyer: No one saw Claudio assault the child, and no one can rule out the possibility that another child in the home caused the girl’s injuries.

The latter scenario, argued a prosecutor, was highly unlikely, given the force that would have been required to squeeze the girl’s neck hard enough to create pockets of trapped air between her skin and muscle.

Claudio, 28, of 10 Dow St., was charged last March after the toddler’s grandparents arrived at the apartment to pick her up and discovered that she was lethargic and covered in bruises and red marks, including one on her stomach.

They took her to the North Shore Children’s Hospital emergency room, where doctors concluded she had been beaten.

But Claudio’s attorney, Joseph Collins, argued yesterday that the evidence before the grand jury, including testimony by a doctor who treated the child and by other adults who had been in the home, was not enough to support charges of attempted murder and assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury.

“Nobody has testified to seeing the defendant inflict those injuries,” Collins argued. “No forensic evidence links him to the injuries, and there is no admission from my client.”

Prosecutors instead relied on the testimony of the doctor, but Collins said the doctor offered no supporting testimony for his conclusion that the injuries were caused by an adult-sized hand.

Collins suggested that the attacker could have been another child in the apartment that weekend, a 7-year-old who has a history of biting. Bite marks were found on the girl, he said.

But prosecutor Kate MacDougall said the grand jury that indicted Claudio had every right to rely on their own common sense in concluding there was probable cause to hand up indictments.

The doctor “specifically said he doesn’t believe a 7-year-old child had the strength to hold a child down,” MacDougall said.

The girl’s injuries included broken blood vessels in her eyes and injuries to her throat. Doctors also found elevated liver enzymes consistent with an injury to that organ.

Claudio, for his part, told police after his arrest that the child fell while climbing a stack of plastic bins.

Judge John Lu said he would consider a written memorandum submitted by Collins and any response MacDougall wants to file before making a ruling.

However, the judge did tell the lawyers that he expects them to set a trial date at the next hearing in the case, on Nov. 21.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.