Fairview Twp. man convicted of child abuse for 2nd time
Jurors took a little more than four hours Thursday to convict a Fairview Township man of felony assault on his then-14-month-old son. Peter J. Moore has served state prison time for a previous child-abuse conviction.
The jury of seven men and five women found Moore guilty of the felony of aggravated assault on a child less than 6 years old and child endangerment.
He is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 2.
Deputy prosecutor Stephen McDonald said he will ask that Moore be given a state-prison sentence, perhaps in the aggravated sentencing range. Defense attorney Joseph Caraciolo said he'll ask for a county-prison sentence.
"I thought it was a very thoughtful verdict," McDonald said, and showed jurors paid attention to the facts of the case.
Caraciolo said he and Moore will be discussing appeal options, primarily whether presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner erred in allowing the prosecution to bring in Moore's previous child-abuse conviction.
"I'm a little bit confused and obviously disappointed" by the verdict, Caraciolo said.
Defendant testified: Moore testified in his own defense Thursday morning,
He told jurors he's ashamed of shaking his baby son 13 years ago, an assault that left the boy seriously injured, police said.
"I'm ashamed of what happened in 2003. I really am. ... I live with that every day," he said. "I changed a lot of people's lives that day."
Moore initially lied to township police about that assault, telling them his son fell off a couch. But he later confessed and cried while being interviewed by police, he confirmed on the witness stand. He pleaded guilty to attempted homicide and aggravated assault and in January 2004 was sentenced to six to 12 years in state prison for shaking his 3-month-old son.
But Moore, now 41, insists he did not assault his younger son in their home on March 8, 2014, and told jurors he believes police decided he was guilty because of his past conviction.
"I feel that is why we're here today — because they couldn't look past it," he said, but added, "I'm not the same person."
Moore told jurors he's taken classes in anger management, victim awareness and violence prevention, and has undergone counseling.
Daughter blamed: He said he has no idea how his son, who was 14 months old at the time, had all four of his lower leg bones broken, but said he believes his autistic, sometimes-violent stepdaughter, who was 5 years old then, accidentally caused the injuries.
The boy has recovered, Fairview Township Police Detective Jarrett Boyles has said. The boy will turn 4 later this year.
During his closing argument, McDonald told jurors Moore learned from his 2003 experience with police that it was unwise to give investigators a scenario they could try to pick apart.
"Because once you say what happened, you're locked into a story," McDonald said. "The defendant caused these injuries, then he lied to cover it up."
The prosecutor paraphrased a famous quote from Arthur Conan Doyle's detective Sherlock Holmes to try to convince jurors that Moore is guilty. The quote is, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."
Medical experts: McDonald reminded jurors of the testimony of a Hershey Medical Center doctor who examined the boy and who is a nationally recognized expert in child abuse.
Dr. Lori Frasier testified the leg fractures didn't happen accidentally, and that the force required to cause them was too great to have been inflicted by a little girl, no matter how strong she was, the prosecutor said.
Caraciolo then called an expert medical witness to testify for the defense.
Dr. Jeffrey Bomze of Bromall, Delaware County, is a medical doctor who disputed Frasier's findings and said Moore's son could have accidentally been injured by his older stepsister.
Moore's wife, who is the mother of both children, was grocery shopping when her son was injured. She has defended her husband and believes he's innocent. She is a different woman than the mother of the baby shaken in 2003, who is Moore's ex-wife.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at@LizScolforoYD.