Judge wants details on plea bargain in abuse case
District Judge Michael Gibbons postponed for a week the arraignment of an 18-year-old Woodfords man accused of breaking the arm of his infant son.
Gibbons said he wanted more information before accepting a plea bargain which reduces the charge against Joseph William DeSalles from a felony to two gross misdemeanors.
Gibbons said he wanted to talk with Deputy District Attorney Dina Salvucci who prepared the plea bargain. She was out of the office on Monday.
DeSalles was prepared to plead guilty to the charges, but Gibbons continued the proceedings for a week for additional information from Salvucci.
The baby, who was born Sept. 15, was five weeks old when the incident occurred. At first, DeSalles told deputies he was attempting to remove the baby from his car seat when he heard his son’s bone snap.
After questioning, he admitted that he was upset with the baby for crying. According to investigators’ reports, DeSalles said he meant to hurt the child, but did not intend to break his arm. He said he grabbed the baby “to get the child’s attention.”
Gibbons said Monday he also was concerned about unconfirmed reports that the baby suffered a possible skull fracture before the broken arm incident. DeSalles told deputies that the baby, who was about three weeks old at the time, was sitting on his parents water bed when waves caused the child to roll off onto a pile of clothes on the floor.
Deputies turned that information over the Washoe Tribe authorities because that is where DeSalles and the child’s mother were living at the time.
Deputy district attorney Derrick Lopez, who was filling in for Salvucci, said he didn’t know why she had entered the agreement.
DeSalles’ attorney, Terri Steik Roeser, said Salvucci had been working with the Washoe Tribe in reaching the negotiation.
Roeser said DeSalles had support and sympathy from the Tribe. She said the baby is in the custody of tribal members.
“He had a bad upbringing himself,” Roeser said of DeSalles. “He and his sister were subject to sexual and physical abuse. The Tribe is working with him.”
“What about dealing with a child who was five weeks old when this happened?” asked Gibbons.
Roeser said DeSalles and the baby’s mother took the infant to Carson Valley Health Center immediately after the child’s arm was broken. Emergency room personnel contacted sheriff’s deputies.
Lopez said Washoe County child abuse expert Dr. Ellen Clark reported that the baby had bruising on his shoulders and knee which she indicated were “highly unusual.”
“You’re describing a terrible situation,” Gibbons told Lopez. “What about the seriousness or permanence of injuries to the child?”
Under terms of the plea agreement, the District Attorney’s office would ask for two consecutive one-year terms in Douglas County Jail, suspended, with probation. As part of his probation, DeSalles would be ordered to serve six months in jail.
“Ms. Salvucci was contacted by a lot of members of the Tribe who are supportive and sympathetic toward my client,” Roeser said. “The child is in the custody of other Tribal members. They are in favor of what she’s recommending.”
Gibbons said he wasn’t rejecting the plea agreement, he wanted more information.
“There may be a good reason for plea negotiation,” Gibbons said. “Dina Salvucci should be here to explain it. I’m not saying the court is going to interfere. There is the rare case the court has the authority to step in, and should step in.”
“This is nothing about you personally,” Gibbons told DeSalles. “This is a matter of procedure about how the plea negotiation should be handled.”
He rescheduled the arraignment for Dec. 29.