West St. Paul Man Charged with First-Degree Assault on Baby
Michael Joseph Mason, 26, insists that the four-month-old was accidentally injured during playtime, though medical evidence suggests otherwise.
A West St. Paul Man has been accused of shaking an infant hard enough to cause brain hemorrhaging and multiple skull fractures. However, the suspect insists that the injuries occurred accidentally, while "playing" with the child.
Michael Joseph Mason, 26, is charged with one count of first-degree assault, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $30,000.
On Feb. 18, around 12:21 p.m. West St. Paul Police were called to a Twin Cities hospital on report of a four-month-old infant with head trauma. Medical personnel told police that Mason, the infant's father, said he had tripped while carrying the child. He allegedly told the hospital staff that she may have hit her head on a baby swing nearby before hitting the floor. She began to cry, he said, and he picked her up to console her. About 40 minutes later, the child threw up her food while eating, but said he didn't notice anything else amiss.
He added that he couldn't call anyone for help, as he had dropped his phone and damaged it earlier that day. The infant was taken to the hospital after the child's mother came home from work and noticed that the baby was acting strangely.
A medical examination threw Mason's account into serious question. Hospital staff notied a small bruise on the child's lower left leg, a bruise on her right knee, and "greenish discoloration" in the corner of her left eye. Further testing revealed that the baby's skull had been fractured in four different places. Yhe baby was suffering from acute subdural hemorrhaging on the right side of her brain, 150 to 200 hemorrhages in her right eye and 75 to 100 in her left.
Such injuries were consistent with a non-accidental trauma involving a significant amount of force, medical personnel concluded. The extensive hemorrhaging was "most likely due to abusive head trauma from [the infant] being shaken very forcefully and likely hit or thrown against something very forcefully."
When questioned by police, Mason stuck to his original story, at first. According to the criminal complaint against Mason, he reiterated what he had told the hospital staff, but added that he had shaken the baby "in a playful manner" before the fall. On a scale of force from 0 to 10, Mason estimated that the shaking rated a four. He said he stopped when the child stopped smiling and began to cry.
During a follow-up interview, police confronted Mason with the medical personnel's findings and he admitted that he had perhaps left one thing out of his initial statement. Everything he'd told police was true, but the baby had passed out for 10 to 20 minutes, he said, something he'd failed to mention the first time. Mason said that he'd been sitting down, playing with the baby, shaking her back and forth and up and down. As he rocked the child backwards, he noticed that the child's head "bounced" off the floor. He said that this happened more than once, and that her head had hit the floor "pretty hard." He stopped rocking her and held her out in front of him, he said: The child's eyes were closed and she wasn't moving.
Mason said he panicked after the baby passed out, and in his haste dropped her twice on the floor while trying to carry her. He said he tripped and fell on the child at one point, though he could not recall whether he'd fallen on her with his full weight or not.
The child woke up later, but vomited during a feeding.
Mason told police that he had not told the child's mother or medical staff about her blackout because he was "scared and nervous." He has no criminal record of note, other than a few minor traffic offenses.
Mason is no longer in custody at the Dakota County Jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 18.