A York Township man originally charged with aggravated assault for fracturing the leg of his girlfriend's 3-year-old son had the felony charge withdrawn after medical expert for the prosecution said he could not rule out the possibility the injury was accidental.
Benjamin Brian Ladd, 28, of Honey Valley Road, pleaded guilty to simple assault as part of a negotiated plea agreement and was sentenced to five years of probation, court records state.
Ladd's agreement requires him to attend parenting classes and have no abusive contact with the boy, defense attorney Shane Kope said.
"He will be living with the child. ... They have a great relationship, according to the mother," Kope said. "The mother of the child didn't feel (Ladd) did this on purpose."
Deputy prosecutor Diana Spurlin said the agreement requires Ladd to first successfully complete parenting classes before he can be around the boy.
The case: State police were called to York Hospital Oct. 25 for a case of suspected child abuse in which the toddler's right femur was fractured.
A York Hospital emergency-room doctor told troopers the fracture was caused by high-impact force to the bone, according to Ladd's arrest affidavit. It happened earlier that day at a home in the first block of East Main Street in Yorkana, police said.
The boy's mother told troopers she took a 15-minute shower and that when she came out of the bathroom her son was crying and saying his leg hurt, according to the affidavit, which states the boy said, "Ben threw me off the bed."
Troopers interviewed Ladd, who told them the child became unruly and refused Ladd's repeated commands to go to his room, the affidavit states.
Ladd confessed he became so enraged he "saw red," picked up the boy by the shoulders and threw him onto the bed, according to the affidavit.
Ladd said the boy's leg became twisted underneath him, the affidavit states.
'Misinterpretation': Kope said there was an "apparent misinterpretation" of the injury and that the ER doctor jumped to conclusions.
"My client recklessly threw the child on the bed a little hard when the child was disobeying," Kope said. "During that process, his leg twisted in an odd way, which caused the fracture."
The child has recovered, the attorney said, and Ladd is remorseful.
"He never meant to hurt the boy," Kope said. "He's always admitted he should take responsibility for what he'd done."
Spurlin said if Ladd violates his probation, he could be sentenced to serve his entire probationary sentence in prison.
"Based on the evidence, I think this is the right result," she said.
Spiral fracture: A medical expert retained by the defense reviewed medical records and determined the child suffered a spiral fracture, which doesn't require high-impact force, according to Kope.
The defense expert also noted he found no other signs of abuse.
In response, prosecutors consulted a pediatric specialist, Spurlin said.
"He did not necessarily agree with the defendant's expert, but said he could not state with a degree of medical certainty ... whether or not the fracture was caused by force or by an accidental twisting," the prosecutor said.
Because of that, Ladd most likely would have been acquitted of aggravated assault if the case went to trial, she said.
Pennsylvania law has now changed, making any assault on a child less than 6 years old a felony aggravated assault, according to Spurlin.
Prior to 2014, prosecutors had to show a defendant acted with extreme indifference to human life to prove an assault was aggravated, she said.