18-Month Jail Term Assailed In Fatal Shaking of Baby Boy

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 11, 2007

A Prince George's County judge this week gave an 18-month jail term to a Forestville man who shook his month-old son to death, a punishment that the director of a group that advocates for children criticized as "extraordinarily lenient."

Circuit Court Judge Ronald D. Schiff imposed the sentence Tuesday on Choyyah I. Bozeman, who pleaded guilty Feb. 20 to one count of child abuse resulting in death.

Bozeman, 23, told Prince George's homicide detectives that he fatally shook his 35-day-old son, Quincy, on Jan. 18, 2006, because the child would not stop crying.

In a demonstration that detectives videotaped, Bozeman used a doll to show how he shook Quincy. A DVD of the demonstration was part of the court record.

At Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Mary K. Brennan asked Schiff to sentence Bozeman to 20 years in prison.

During the hearing, Bozeman's attorney, Joseph F. Vallario III, called a psychologist who testified that Bozeman had an IQ of 69 and was mentally the equivalent of a 10-year-old.

Schiff told Bozeman in court that he wanted him to understand that he was responsible for Quincy's death. "He didn't die of natural causes," Schiff said. "He died because you picked him up, shook him, and that's the only reason he's not here."

The judge continued, "I'm not sure what a long sentence will do. It certainly will not bring Quincy back."

Schiff said at the hearing that, based on what he had heard from the defense, long-term punishment would not serve the community. He also said Bozeman, who had no criminal history, is unlikely to be a repeat offender.

"This court has seen too many murderers walk out of this courtroom, on too frequent a basis, without getting any punishment whatsoever for any number of reasons," Schiff said. "And I certainly don't put you in that category."

Eileen King, eastern regional director for the advocacy group Justice for Children, said Schiff's sentence is "extraordinarily lenient. It sends the message that a baby's life is worth so little. What is the message? You kill a child, and you get off scot-free."

Schiff declined to comment this week. State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey also declined to comment.

According to the state's attorney's office, Brennan told Schiff that Bozeman might have to serve only about 25 percent of any sentence he received. That's because under Maryland law, the crime Bozeman pleaded guilty to was not considered a crime of violence on the day Bozeman fatally shook his child. The state legislature has since changed the law to make the offense a crime of violence, prosecutors said.

Because Bozeman has spent three months in jail, he could be released next month.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company