- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Missouri man who spent nine months in prison in the mid-1990s for an assault conviction after his 3-month-old son suffered injuries that left him with brain damage won’t face new charges now that the son has died, a spokesman for the county’s prosecutor says.

John M. Choate died last October as a ward of the state, 21 years after being assaulted, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1U7gz88 ) reported.

When Choate died, the medical examiner ruled the case a homicide. Police reopened the investigation and sought new charges against his father, John Choate Sr., in June.

But Ed Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, says most of the evidence in the original assault case has been destroyed and the boy’s parents both deny hurting the then-infant.

“It was a weak case back then and an even weaker case now,” Magee said.

The elder Choate, now 49, doesn’t have a listed home telephone number and couldn’t be reached Wednesday to comment on the prosecutor’s decision.

In May 1993, the then-3-month-old boy’s parents brought him to an emergency room for unexplained seizures and vomiting. Doctors found the child had broken ribs, a broken leg and severe brain injuries. Suspecting child abuse, the doctors called police.

According to court transcripts, the child’s injuries did not match the parents’ explanations to doctors. A doctor said in depositions that the boy suffered blindness and his injuries left him with a “grim” prognosis for normal brain development.

The boy’s mother, now 46, refused to answer questions by investigators and was never charged.

But John Choate Sr. was charged with first-degree assault and later entered an Alford plea to a charge of a lesser assault count, admitting no guilt but acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. Choate served nine months of a three-year sentence and was paroled in September 1995.

When interviewed by the Post-Dispatch in March, he denied abusing his son and speculated that the then-toddler was somehow accidentally injured when he grabbed the boy from his mother’s arms during an argument.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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