There’s a video online from a home camera showing a Glens Falls man punching an infant in the stomach last summer.
So what would you think would be the punishment for that crime?
Six months in jail? A year? Two? More?
How about seven? Days. Seven days.
That’s how much time 31-year-old Dayton Cross served in jail for slamming his 1-year-old son on a bed and punching him in the stomach with a closed fist back in July.
The misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child netted him a 15-day sentence, of which he served less than half.
One week in prison for punching an infant. That needs to change.
A bill (A8635/S4290) is reworking its way through the Legislature that would do just that, creating a new class D violent felony offense of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child for extreme examples of abuse now covered under the broad umbrella of the misdemeanor charge.
State Sen. Dan Stec is a cosponsor in the Senate and Assemblyman Matt Simpson is the main sponsor in the Assembly. Both are from the Glens Falls area.
The existing misdemeanor charge carries only very light penalties for a wide range of actions, ranging from leaving a child in the backseat of a car to extreme physical abuse.
This new charge puts the more violent acts in their own more serious category.
To be convicted of the new felony charge, the suspect would have to knowingly act in a manner that creates a risk of either serious physical injury or prolonged mental or emotional impairment of a child less than 17 years old.
The charge would also apply if the individual commits a charge covered under second-degree endangerment, a less violent act, if the child is under age 11, the child suffers physical injury, or if the suspect had been previously convicted of upwards of two dozen other acts of violence against children.
Having a previous record of child abuse being factored in to this charge could help prevent or discourage repeated violence.
If you think punching a child doesn’t rise to this level, consider that only a couple of weeks earlier in the same city, a 7-week-old child died after an adult punched him in the chest and stomach. It doesn’t take much for an adult to injure or kill a baby or child.
Of course, tougher penalties don’t always prevent crimes. People often commit these types of crimes without regard to the consequences.
But violent D felonies are punishable by 2 to 7 years in prison. So raising a fist to a baby might make someone think twice before they strike. And in that way, a child might be spared because of this law.
And anyway, no one who deliberately harms a child or who has a record of doing so should get off with a sentence of only a few days.
New York’s existing child endangerment laws do little to protect children from such violence. This new violent felony charge is a step in the right direction.