Guilty plea in assault of baby

EVERETT — Jamarious Jackson sat on his grandpa’s lap on Tuesday doing his two favorite things — laughing and jumping.

His grin widened as he kicked out his legs and bounced in Eddie Carpenter’s arms.

Jamarious, who turns 3 in January, isn’t able to do a lot of things. He can’t walk or talk or stand or sit up on his own.

He can bounce though. He loves to bounce.

His grandparents cherish all that Jamarious can do. What may seem like a small step in a healthy child’s development is a miracle to them. After all, the doctors told them that Jamarious wouldn’t be able to do anything.

“We’re proving them wrong,” Ginger Carpenter said.

The Carpenters adopted Jamarious after he was removed from his parents in 2008.

His father, Tyrus Jackson, was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison for assaulting Jamarious when the boy was 3 months old. The boy has limited sight and has spastic cerebral palsy.

Jamarious was rushed to the hospital May 2, 2008. He was turning purple and having trouble breathing. Doctors determined that he had a brain injury, broken bones and internal injuries. They told investigators that the injuries were not accidental. Prosecutors alleged that his father was to blame.

Jackson, 22, pleaded guilty in July to second-degree assault of a child. He admitted to poking his son in the chest. He didn’t admit to causing the disabling head injury. He also pleaded guilty to having cocaine and violating a no-contact order.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter told the judge on Tuesday that there were complications with the assault case that could have led a jury to acquit Jackson. The prosecutor had to balance the risk of Jackson going free without any punishment or taking a guilty plea to a lesser charge and being assured that Jackson would spend time behind bars.

Initially, prosecutors alleged that there were aggravating factors. That could have led to a longer prison sentence.

Defense attorney Neal Friedman said he was prepared to take the case to trial. He expected to bring in experts to testify that there were other explanations for the boy’s injuries.

The night before he was taken to the hospital, the boy’s mother had fallen on some stairs while she was carrying Jamarious.

“It would have been a battle of the experts,” Friedman said.

Jackson had other outstanding charges, including drug possession and violating a domestic violence no-contact order. With those stacked against him, he agreed to plead guilty to the assault charge, Friedman said.

“I am sorry for what happened,” Jackson said Tuesday.

Both attorneys recommended a 4-year prison term, the maximum under the law.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne explained on Tuesday that the law prevented him from sentencing Jackson to more time. Court decisions and legislative changes in recent years have limited the instances in which judges can impose an exceptional sentence beyond the standard range, Wynne explained.

There’s no question that the child suffered severe injuries that were not accidental, the judge said.

“I’m glad he’s got time. It’s not enough,” Ginger Carpenter said.

Jackson will be out of prison in four years “living his life the way he always has. Four years from now we will be still changing Jamarious’s diapers and wiping drool off his face,” the grandmother wrote in a letter to the judge.

The Carpenters say they now focus on caring for Jamarious and making decisions that are good for him. They’ve also become foster parents to other children.

Ginger Carpenter also has become a volunteer guardian ad litem for the courts. She is tasked with representing the best interests of children in court cases.

“I’m on a mission to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other children,” she said. “If I save one child, I know I’ve made a difference.”

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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