BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — On the one hand, Lidia Rodriguez was accused of repeatedly lying to police who were trying to identify the person who pulled her 11-month-old son’s hair so hard it ripped the skin from the tissue underneath, causing the baby’s head to swell grotesquely.
On the other hand, the Department of Children and Families had returned the child to her custody. And police never charged anyone with causing the baby’s injuries — not even the boyfriend she had been trying to protect because of a prior allegation of abuse.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Salem District Court Judge Michael Lauranzano said yesterday, after hearing two very different arguments from a prosecutor and a defense attorney.
Prosecutor Anna Zalewski urged that Rodriguez, 22, of 1000 Loring Ave., Salem, be sent to jail for her “egregious” behavior after police learned, from North Shore Children’s Hospital staff, of the baby’s injuries, which also included bruises on his face and body in March of 2012.
Rodriguez told doctors the baby fell from a bed onto a PlayStation console, but doctors did not believe that would cause such serious damage. They concluded that the injuries, which led to enough bleeding to cause anemia, were more consistent with the baby being picked up by his hair.
Rodriguez said it happened while a person she identified as “Tony” was in the apartment. She later admitted there is no such person and that she had left the child with her boyfriend, Jose Rodriguez, 28.
He had asked her to lie because he knew that if police knew he was around the child, they would suspect him. In 2011, police charged him with biting the 5-year-old child of his former girlfriend.
But while the prosecutor was requesting a guilty finding and jail time, Lauranzano had already made one decision, saying he would not put her in custody. “She’s not going to jail; you can take that right off the table,” said the judge.
Defense attorney Sam Gates said Rodriguez, a young single mother, was “pressured” by her boyfriend and made the wrong choice. “Lying to the police is wrong,” Gates acknowledged. “She did so in the face of pressure from an individual who is not of the highest character.”
Jose Rodriguez is currently in custody on unrelated drug charges; his attorney said his case on charges of lying to police in connection with the incident is still pending.
But a felony conviction for Lidia Rodriguez would have “disastrous” consequences, Gates argued. She would lose her subsidized housing. And while she hopes to return to working as a teacher’s aide, the pending case has already posed an obstacle, he said.
Instead, Gates asked Lauranzano to impose a continuation without a finding in the case and then dismiss it after a period of probation and mental health counseling.
The judge told the lawyers and Rodriguez that he’d make a decision after lunch, then decided to impose a guilty finding and a year of probation, with conditions that include counseling and compliance with any conditions set by the DCF.
But the decision may not be final. Rodriguez’s attorney spoke to the judge out of earshot of the rest of the courtroom. Then, as Gates walked back toward his client, Lauranzano advised him to make sure he files his request within 60 days.
That is the time frame during which a lawyer may file a motion asking a judge to change a sentence or change a guilty finding to a continuation without a finding, something known as a “revise and revoke.”
“Mark it up anytime,” the judge said. “Just make sure you file that within 60 days.”
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.