A 23-year-old Buffalo father was sentenced Thursday to five years in state prison for injuries he inflicted on his 8-week-old son.
Mark Bridenbaker of Indian Church Road, who pleaded guilty last month to reckless assault of a child, had faced between two and seven years in prison or probation.
“These are horrible cases with more than one victim,” Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case said.
District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said he wished the “shaken baby statute” carried tougher penalties.
While not criticizing the judge’s sentence, Sedita said, “This kind of conduct should be a higher, more punitive felony.”
The infant was hospitalized in May for 13 days, including eight days in a pediatric intensive care unit.
The baby suffered multiple broken ribs and had to undergo a blood transfusion.
The alert mother sought medical treatment for her infant because “his cry did not sound right,” said Rosanne E. Johnson, chief of the Special Victims Bureau at the District Attorney’s Office.
The infant faces an uncertain future because of a brain injury, she said.
The child’s mother did not appear in court because she “could not bear to see the defendant’s face,” she added.
In a letter to the judge, the mother said, “He deserves to serve at least five years in prison.” She also wrote that she would prefer Bridenbaker serve as many years in prison as her son is disabled.
The judge said he could not ignore the force that was required to inflict such injuries.
He also noted that Bridenbaker did not reveal to medical personnel what happened to the infant – information that would have helped them treat the infant.
“You could and should have been a voice for this little baby,” Case said. “You failed to do so.”
“There is no sentence I can impose today that will turn back the hands of time,” he added. “I wish I could do that.”
Bridenbaker said he did not mean to hurt his son.
“I feel terrible for what I have done,” he said at the sentencing hearing.
He said he hopes one day to “make things better” for the child.
Defense lawyer John R. Nuchereno asked the judge to consider his client’s background. He called Bridenbaker a “special needs individual” who has had “functional limitations.”
Bridenbaker will not find the help he needs in a state prison, Nuchereno said.
The defense lawyer asked the judge to impose a county jail sentence and then probation.
“Clearly, Mark needs some help. He’s needed help since he was born,” Nuchereno said.