Man sentenced to 7 years for breaking infant’s femur
Grand County, CO Colorado
A father was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday, Jan. 6, for breaking the femur of his 6-month-old baby.
Gary Harms, 28, of Granby, was coming off of a 48-hour methamphetamine binge on March 24, 2010, when he squeezed his son too hard while holding him in the cradle position, according to his testimony in an affidavit for an arrest warrant documented by Granby Police Officer Daniel Zacek Smith.
“On March 24, something terrible happened,” said an emotional Harms, addressing the court during his sentencing hearing last week. Judge Mary Hoak presided.
“I truly believe, had I not been under the influence, I wouldn’t have hurt my son. I wouldn’t have put my family in danger … I’m a good father and a good husband.”
“When you are given a child as a parent, it is your obligation to take care of that child,” Judge Hoak responded. “You are the line of defense to the rest of the world for that child. But, you were the person William had to be protected from. You cannot use a drug like methamphetamine and parent a child.”
His wife Brandi Russell, who was in the courtroom crying, also tested positive for meth and marijuana following the incident, according to the affidavit. She still faces charges stemming from the incident, including possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana.
According to a police account of the incident based on interviews with the parents, in the middle of the night last March, Russell handed the baby over to Harms, but the father was unsuccessful in soothing the baby. Harms “lost his temper with (his son) and began to squeeze (him) while holding him in a cradle position as he was attempting to stand up,” the affidavit reads.
The parents brought the baby to Granby Medical early that morning at which time he was transported to Children’s Hospital of Aurora.
Harms was arrested two days later for child abuse and possession of methamphetamine and marijuana. He posted a $30,000 bond on March 30, 2010.
Harms pleaded guilty to a Class 4 felony of child abuse, negligently causing serious bodily injury in November. Two other counts of drug possession were dismissed as a condition of the plea agreement.
At the sentencing hearing last week, Hoak sentenced Harms to seven years in the Department of Corrections, with three years of mandatory parole, plus court costs, fees and contributions amounting to $1,218.
The defense attorney presented testimony that Harms’ nine months of success in anger management courses, parenting courses, drug courses and his continued sobriety proves he has changed.
“I know that Mr. Harms has come to learn the devastating consequences of the substance abuse,” said Public Defender Hillary Perry. “He has learned he is a better person without the use of drugs and alcohol.”
Upon reports of successful treatment, the Dependency and Neglect Court had returned the baby to the parents on the basis of their sobriety.
“Even though the (Dependency and Neglect) court made the finding in the best interest of the family, Harms is going to be taken away, and that’s an extreme detriment to this child,” Perry said, addressing the court.
“Methamphetamine may have contributed to what (Harms) did, but it is the defendant who is the one who did it,” said Deputy District Attorney Heather Shwayder-Hughes. She emphasized the amount of force it must take to break the largest bone in a baby’s supple-bone body.
Although she recognized that Harms is “not a chronic abuser … that being said, we don’t know what will happen when William gets fussy again the next time.”
Hoak said she agreed with the prosecution, that it was “only luck” the baby wasn’t more seriously injured. And, she recognized the parents’ efforts in taking positive steps.
“All you can do is look forward, but you can’t take it back, what happened,” she said to Harms.
“To say that it’s irresponsible to use methamphetamine while you’re caring for a child is about to be the biggest understatement I’m going to make this year,” Judge Hoak said. “And it’s only January the 6th.”
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