BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A Salem mother has been charged with lying to doctors and police to protect her boyfriend after her 11-month-old son was hospitalized with serious injuries consistent with being lifted by his hair last year.
Lidia Rodriguez, 21, of 1000 Loring Ave., pleaded not guilty to a charge of witness intimidation during her arraignment yesterday in Salem District Court, where Judge Matthew Machera ordered her held on $2,500 bail.
Her boyfriend, Jose Luis Rodriguez III, 27 — who in 2011 was charged with biting the 5-year-old son of another girlfriend — remains under investigation by police. He’s currently being held on unrelated drug charges at the Middleton Jail.
If Lidia Rodriguez makes bail, she will be confined to her home and monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet, the judge ordered.
Her children have already been returned to her custody since the incident.
Prosecutor Alex Grimes, who had sought a far higher bail of $10,000, said Lidia Rodriguez took her son to North Shore Children’s Hospital on March 30, 2012, because he had swelling and bruising on his head.
She offered doctors, and later police, an account of how the boy had been suffering chronic ear infections and was fussing in his crib. She said she put him on her bed, but he rolled over and fell on top of a PlayStation game console, which, she said, belonged to a friend she knew only as “Tony.”
Doctors were skeptical. The baby was suffering severe swelling of his scalp, which had filled with blood between the skull and the skin, pushing his ears out, and he had two black eyes, Grimes told the judge. The baby suffered so much internal bleeding that he became anemic, said the prosecutor.
The boy was also found to have injuries to his neck.
Police were also concerned that the account was not truthful, after a search of the apartment revealed that the bed was simply a mattress on a carpeted floor.
Doctors told Salem police that the injuries were consistent with the baby being picked up by his hair, and concluded “this is out-and-out child abuse,” Grimes told the judge.
The child has since recovered physically, and both he and an older half-sibling, now 7, were returned to Lidia Rodriguez’s custody by the Department of Children and Families, Grimes told the judge.
There are, however, some concerns about whether the child has sustained emotional trauma, said the prosecutor, describing recent reports of the child “acting out.”
A public defender representing Lidia Rodriguez yesterday told the judge that DCF has been attempting to close their case.
About a week after her first interview, Lidia Rodriguez called police and identified Jose Rodriguez as her boyfriend, admitting that she had made up the story about a man named “Tony.” She said Jose Rodriguez, who was charged in July 2011 with biting the 5-year-old son of a former girlfriend, told her not to tell police he had been in her apartment because he would be blamed.
David Alford, the student public defender representing the mother yesterday, said Lidia was “physically intimidated” by her boyfriend.
“Her children and her mother need her,” said Alford, who stressed his client’s ties to the city, where she graduated from Salem High School.
According to court papers, the father of the injured child, another Salem man, has not been involved in his life.
Grimes told the judge that the charges were delayed while prosecutors reviewed whether to seek a criminal complaint against Lidia Rodriguez.
A status hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 7.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.