HELENA- A Helena defendant convicted of severely injuring a baby was sentenced to prison on Monday.
Helena District Judge Mike Menahan sentenced Aaron J. Oliphant to 20 years in the state prison with five years suspended.
Oliphant was convicted of felony aggravated assault on Sept. 27 following a jury trial.
Prosecutors said Oliphant severely injured the boy in June of 2016 while the baby’s mother was at work. The child suffered bleeding to the brain and five skull fractures.
Prosecutors said the injuries are consistent with the child being shaken and struck on the head at least once with a great amount of force.
The injuries were documented by a CT scan and an MRI and confirmed by teams of doctors in Helena and Salt Lake City.
The child’s mother said in court Monday, the nearly two-year-old child undergoes speech, occupational and other types of therapy three times a week. She told the court her son has just learned to walk.
She said the child experiences regular seizures for which he receives medication.
Since no childcare facilities will take him, the mother also told the court she can’t work because she is her child’s full-time caregiver.
The probation and parole officer who wrote the presentence investigation in the case told the court that Oliphant continues to deny responsibility for what happened to the child.
During the trial, Oliphant’s defense attorney told the jury that the child had been experiencing symptoms for several days before the alleged assault took place.
County Attorney Leo Gallagher told the court that due to the nature of the injuries inflicted, the child and his mother will live life sentences of their own.
Referring to Oliphant, Gallagher said, “He actively did the best he could to prevent caregivers from knowing the extent of the injuries. While blood filled the child’s brain, he kept his mouth shut and watched.”
“It takes a special kind of guy to watch a child die, potentially,” said Gallagher.
Judge Menahan called the sentence significant, given the overwhelming evidence of violence perpetrated upon the child.
“He’ll suffer for the remainder of his life,” said Judge Menahan. Oliphant showed no emotion during the hearing. He spoke once, saying he didn’t understand why his child support payments were not being made while he had a job.
Oliphant’s defense attorney asked Judge Menahan to give his client time to attend to his affairs before being taken into custody.
Judge Menahan refused the request and a pair of Sheriff’s Deputies placed Oliphant in handcuffs and led him from the courtroom.