Youngstown dad sentenced for shaking son, leaving him disabled - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Youngstown dad sentenced for shaking son, leaving him disabled

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

A Youngstown father received the maximum sentence in an infant abuse case where prosecutors say he shook his infant so violently he was permanently disabled. 

Thirty-seven-year-old Eric Pendland was sentenced Tuesday afternoon to 11 years on two separate charges of endangering children.

Prosecutors say it was on March 1, 2017, when Pendland shook his son, who was three-months-old at the time, so hard that it caused him to go deaf and blind. 

At the hospital, the boy had brain bleeding, hemorrhages in his eyes, and was unresponsive.

Prosecutors asked Judge Anthony Donofrio to impose the maximum sentence possible because of the extent of the boy's injuries. 

"Baby Eric Jr. was the biological son, is the biological son of the defendant. He was in a position to protect him, care for him, nurture him, and instead, he abused him and caused great, great harm to him," said Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin. 

He ultimately survived after two-and-a-half months in the hospital and at least three surgeries.  

The boy will now have to be on a feeding tube for the rest of his life and is not expected ever to walk.

"Visual disabilities, hearing disabilities, a permanent feeding tube, a permanent wheelchair, this little boy is never going to have the life that he should have had, but for what the defendant did," McLaughlin said. 

Speaking on his own behalf, Pendland argued his innocence in the case. 

"I've been falsely accused, I've been wrongfully convicted, and I'm absolutely 100 percent innocent of these allegations. And I can't be remorseful for something that I know I didn't do. I love all my children and would never harm a hair on their heads," he told Judge Donofrio.

Taking the stand for her adoptive son, Sharon Lawson spoke on the victim's behalf, saying that the child had been handed a life sentence. 

"For the rest of his life, Eric will rely on others to speak for him, to be his voice, to advocate for him, and protect him. Your honor, I ask that when you consider sentencing for the defendant you consider that my son has been giving a sentence for the rest of his life," Lawson said. 

She continued, "When I saw the 3D images of Eric's brain to the trauma inflicted to him I sobbed in disbelief, not prepared for what I was seeing, blackness, holes, and holes of blackness where living tissue should be. Holes that will never heal." 

Lawson, who with her husband have fostered other children with specific medical needs, says nothing could have prepared her for the pain and anguish that Eric Jr. had suffered. 

"For well over a year, Eric screamed in pain for 18 hours a day," she said. 

"A colicky baby. A Drug baby. A child screaming for its mother. Nothing could compare to the screaming of a non-accidental brain injury," she told the Judge. 

As Judge Donofrio handed out the eleven-year sentence, Pendland burst out in anger, saying it was "bull****" and that he "didn't do anything wrong". 

Both McLaughlin and Lawson say they're glad Pendland received the maximum sentence and that they felt as though the court listened to their plea.

However, they say there is an unbalance, knowing that Eric Jr, who is now nearly three-years-old, will never be able to lead a normal life. 

"You know it feels amazing to know that this defendant is going to the prison to be punished, that eleven years of his life are going to be taken from him. I feel that this was a case where since baby Eric survived the sentence is never going to be commensurate to the harm because legally it can't be," McLaughlin explained. 

"There are enhanced penalties had baby Eric died. Because he was strong because he survived we're left with these limited penalties and I don't know what more could be done about that."

"It does feel like closure. First the adoption two weeks ago today, here in this courtroom, and then the sentencing today. It feels like we can finally move past what's referred to as the incident, or the injury," McLaughlin said. 

Now, the family is looking forward to moving on with the future. 

Eric Jr. was adopted by the Lawsons and, according to the family, will know love from them for the rest of his life.

"Unfortunately his condition won't change, he won't improve, nothing will get better. But we can make him comfortable and make him feel loved, for the rest of his life," Lawson said. 

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