AUGUSTA — Kevin M. Peaslee will spend the next seven years behind bars for shaking his infant daughter so violently she is disabled for life.

The sentence was imposed Friday by Justice Carl O. Bradford in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Peaslee, 22, of Windsor pleaded guilty Oct. 9 in Kennebec County Superior Court to the Dec. 21 aggravated assault on Aleah M. Peaslee, who was 6 months old at the time.

“It was a horrible mistake that I can’t change no matter how much I wish I could,” Peaslee said. He told the judge he could not explain what he did. “I’m not a violent person,” Peaslee said.

“I was frustrated that day,” Peaslee recalled when he addressed the judge. “She just had shots the day before, and they always make her extra fussy.”

Peaslee said he did not pay much attention to a video shown to new parents in the hospital warning against the dangers of shaking a baby when he was there for Aleah’s birth.

The shaken baby case made national headlines earlier this year because Aleah’s injuries were so severe they prompted the state to seek a do-not-resuscitate order over her mother’s objections. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court later dismissed an appeal of the order after the LePage administration said it would not enforce the do-not-resuscitate order.

In court on Friday, Peaslee said that if he could talk to his daughter he would tell her she was perfect.

“Nothing will change how I feel about her and I want her to know how terribly sorry I am and I hope that one day she will forgive her father,” he said.

The judge said he was siding with the state in terms of the seven-year initial incarceration.

Bradford talked about the baby’s injuries, saying, “Aleah has lost her vision and her hearing, and lost control over the use of her limbs apparently because her brain cannot communicate with her organs.”

He said the girl is “a spastic quadriplegic” subject to seizures controlled with medication.

Bradford read aloud parts of a letter from the Aleah’s caregiver, who the judge said would remain anonymous. “Aleah’s life was changed forever,” the caregiver wrote. “Another person’s choice has given her a life sentence.”

Bradford granted a 48-hour stay of the sentence, and Peaslee is to report to the Kennebec County jail Monday morning. Peaslee has been free on bail since January.

Under the terms of the sentencing agreement worked out prior to the hearing, Peaslee was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but up to an initial seven years suspended and three years’ probation. The argument Friday was only about the length of the unsuspended portion. The initial agreement also called for 12 years’ probation, but that was changed because three years is the maximum probation available for the offense, according to District Attorney Maeghan Maloney.

After the sentencing hearing, Maloney said, “I appreciate the court carefully listening to everything the parties had to say and coming to a fair result that brings as much justice as possible in a case as tragic as this.”

Aleah’s mother, Virginia Trask, and Kevin Peaslee’s parents all asked the judge to impose a shorter period of initial incarceration. They all came to the hearing with Peaslee, who was dressed in a gray suit with a gray tie.

Trask read aloud a statement to the judge, saying she loves and supports Peaslee.

Trask’s description of her daughter contrasted sharply with that presented by the state. The documents in the case, including the sentencing memos, were impounded.

“I’ve watched Aleah grow and change over the past 17 months,” Trask said told the judge. “Aleah is doing really well. She smiles, laughs, kicks her legs, even says ‘hi’ back.”

Trask recounted the scene in the hospital when Aleah was removed from the ventilator that was helping her to breathe. Trask said she and Peaslee signed the do-not-resuscitate order and then rescinded it as the baby began to recover.

“Every day Aleah’s here is a miracle, and we cherish that,” Trask said. “This is a family tragedy that happened to us. I love Aleah and at the same time I love Kevin.”

Trask said Peaslee is “trying to live with himself through all of this.”

“He’s really turned his life around.”

She said Peaslee acted “out of frustration, not hate or anger. He panicked, just as many other people have done. He did it because he didn’t know what else to do.”

She said he hates himself as a result.

Lawley’s attorney, James Lawley, had recommended an initial three years behind bars sentence and asked that Peaslee serve it at Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston.

At Friday’s hearing Lawley play a brief excerpt from a taped interview of Peaslee responding to a question about what happened.

“I shook her because I was just so pissed off ’cause she was soaked,” Peaslee says on the recording. His voice breaks, and he appears to be sobbing as talks of a coma and seizure and his efforts to do CPR. After that, he says, “I took her in my arms and I drove and I got pulled over,” adding, “I did shake her and that’s what made her have the seizure.”

“This was a young man who just could not cope,” Lawley said.

Lawley said Peaslee suffered abuse as a child, had undiagnosed development disabilities, an IQ of between 68 and 71, and difficulty finding an outlet for his frustration.

Lawley said that when Peaslee realized Aleah was seriously hurt, his first thought was “get Ginny” rather than call for an ambulance, and he was driving the baby to the fast food restaurant where she worked when police pulled him over for failing to stop at a stop sign. An officer saw the baby was in distress and took them to a nearby fire station for medical help.

After the hearing, Lawley said the sentence would be appealed.

“A seven-year sentence will not make Aleah better,” Lawley said, “but it will do more harm to Kevin and a family who have already been torn apart.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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