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Father given 12 years in shaken baby case

He turned down a plea offer for five years in prison. He went to trial with no defense. He blamed his son's acute head trauma on a medical condition.

And Friday morning, Aaron Hunsberger wept.

Whether the tears were for his family, himself or a little of both didn't matter. What mattered, Circuit Judge Joe Bulone said, was all the evidence that pointed to Hunsberger shaking his infant son hard enough to send him to the ICU.

And because of that, the judge would send 33-year-old Hunsberger to prison.

But not before Hunsberger's wife, Wendy, tore into the system, the prosecutor and the hospital that had cared for her 5 1/2-month-old son after he suffered a fractured skull, multiple retinal hemorrhages and bone fractures in August 2003.

"I know that statistically the state believes they are protecting our three children," Wendy Hunsberger said in a steady, sharp voice. "They are not protecting our children . . Their father was ripped from them.

"I feel my husband is being made an example of."

During Aaron Hunsberger's January trial, expert testimony indicated that his son had suffered from shaken baby syndrome. The defense was unable to offer a plausible alternative, and jurors found the stay-at-home father guilty on two counts of aggravated child abuse.

He faced up to 60 years in prison. Assistant State Attorney Eva Vergos asked for 30.

Bulone settled on 12, followed by five years of probation. Hunsberger must perform 50 hours of community service, during which the judge ordered him to educate others on the dangers of shaking an infant.

Colleen Jenkins covers courts in west Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6236 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6236. Her e-mail address is cjenkins@sptimes.com.

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