A father accused of destroying his infant son's breathing monitor pleaded guilty Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court to a felony assault charge and may serve about a year in prison.
Brian Bevelhymer, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree assault.
The plea agreement reached between Assistant District Attorney Sue McLean and defense attorney Philip Pallenberg sets the maximum prison time for Bevelhymer at 18 months. If given the maximum, with time off for good behavior and time served since his arrest in February, he could be out in less than a year. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 12.
Bevelhymer originally was charged with two counts of first-degree assault, a felony, and one count of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.
The charges stem from an incident of Feb. 18 when Bevelhymer threw a malfunctioning monitor, part of a machine that regulated his then 10-week-old son's oxygen, from a downtown hotel balcony, destroying the monitor.
According to court records, the baby's lungs were underdeveloped. The machine helped him breathe.
The prosecution, in its original charges, claimed that while Bevelhymer was drunk, he came in from the balcony, beat the child and threw him across the hotel room at the child's mother, Eleanor Kaye.
Kaye pleaded guilty in Juneau Superior Court last month to reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, for failing to reattach the infant to a different monitor that night because she was too drunk.
Kaye was sentenced to one year in jail with six months suspended and ordered into alcohol treatment.
The infant was hospitalized for a month after the incident, court records said. Pallenberg said the baby is in the care of a relative.
Had Bevelhymer been convicted on the original charges, he would have faced up to 20 years for each felony charge and up to one year for the misdemeanor.
At the change-of-plea hearing Tuesday, McLean said that although the state made the plea agreement with Bevelhymer, she stands behind the factual basis for the original charges.
"We have a witness problem," said McLean told the Empire.
At the hearing McLean explained that when EMTs came to take away the baby his face was red and swollen, he had a head injury and was not getting oxygen.
"Ms. Kaye had an explanation for this, saying Mr. Bevelhymer struck and threw the baby," said McLean. "But later, in front of the grand jury, she was equivocal about her statements. I believe there is still probable cause to think the events happened as we originally stated, but given the fact they were both drunk and were the only ones there, we are willing to make this agreement."
Bevelhymer's plea means he accepts responsibility for recklessly causing injury to his son.
"I didn't hit my child, but I wasn't there to protect him," he testified Tuesday.
Pallenberg said at the hearing that Bevelhymer "strenuously disagrees" with much of the prosecution's version of the case and will present those issues at sentencing.
Pallenberg told the Empire that Bevelhymer was drunk and frustrated that day but did not disconnect the machine that gave his baby oxygen, only the monitoring device.
"I think people have this impression of Mr. Bevelhymer taking the oxygen mask off of his son's face, and it didn't happen that way," said Pallenberg. "He maintains that when he left the room to destroy the monitor the baby was still on oxygen."
According to medical reports in the court record, emergency room doctors said the baby had bruising on his face, a concussion and had a low oxygen level. He had gone without oxygen from the machine for nearly an hour, court records said.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.