3 years in blinding of infant

WARREN – A local man had nothing to say to a judge before he was sentenced Wednesday to three years behind bars for blinding his own six-week-old son, whom he shook as a form of punishment while babysitting him.

Christopher Cline, 26, was reportedly playing video games Nov. 7, 2009, at his Lancer Court N.W. home and shook the infant Christian to prevent him from crying.

The baby’s mother, Alicia Allen, had left for work – her first day back on the job after maternity leave – when the baby was injured. Besides being blinded, the boy also suffered serious mental impairment after doctors at Akron’s Children’s Hospital found two points of bleeding from the brain.

An expert at the hospital determined the infant suffered Shaken Baby Syndrome, but Cline’s attorney also secured an expert to refute the claim.

Judge W. Wyatt McKay handed down the three-year-sentence, pointing out that it had been agreed to by both sides. Cline, who was free on $25,000 bond, pleaded guilty earlier to a second-degree felony of child endangering.

”We wanted justice for Christian, and we agreed with the plea bargain rather than go to trial and risk no jail time at all,” said Renee Allen, the child’s maternal grandmother who along with her husband, Leon, now has custody of Christian.

The baby’s mother, who was in court with her parents for the sentencing, has had another child with Cline since the injuries to Christian.

And it was Renee Allen, who has started up a local support group for shaken baby victims, who delivered an impact statement to the court:

”Christian did not have a choice and I feel you should not either. Being sorry is not enough. One day, you will have to answer to God,” Allen said. ”When your sentence is over, it’s over for you. Christian’s damages are permanent – forever.”

”Christian is blind with severe brain damage due to Shaken Baby Syndrome. He has been placed on the national registry for the blind. We trusted you, and you broke that trust.”

”Chris, you changed our lives that day when you took a perfectly healthy six-week-old baby and took it upon yourself to hurt him. I want everyone to know Christian is such a blessing to us,” said Allen, a former educational assistant for special needs students in Warren City Schools who retired early to continue to care for her grandson and start up the group she calls Grammie’s Touch.

She said Christian is prone to suffering seizures and now at nearly age 4 is still unable to eat solid food.

Allen said she is teaching Christian sign language and she said the boy’s sense of hearing is remarkably keen.

She also said she is planning periodic meetings for the new group at a Panera Bread and at Trumbull County Children’s Rehabilitation Center.

”God has called me to this. This kind of child abuse is preventable,” she said.

cbobby@tribtoday.com