Before he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Jonathan Gelb reportedly stood at the front of the courtroom and proclaimed his innocence.
"I didn't abuse you," Gelb reportedly said Friday to his son, Lukuz, who was hurt so severely that he is in a permanent vegetative state. He was in the courtroom Friday. Lukuz, nearly 4, cannot see, walk, talk or feed himself. He wears a helmet to protect his head. He is so fragile, his family says, he could die any day.
A jury reportedly decided last month that Gelb, now 28, was the one who hurt his son and convicted Gelb of aggravated child abuse. Gelb had been watching Lukuz, then 2 months old, on Sept. 30, 2008, when he called the baby's mother and said she needed to come home because Lukuz was twitching. When Leann Rodriguez got to their Port Richey home, she found the infant gasping for air. Doctors said Lukuz's brain was bleeding and he had leg fractures — new and old ones. Experts testified Lukuz's injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
"I hope some day you can look at yourself and know what you did was wrong," Rodriguez said in court, looking at Gelb as she spoke.
Gelb reportedly said he was guilty only of not immediately calling 911 when he noticed his son was in distress.
"Lukuz, we are all people," he said. "We all make mistakes."
He was reportedly adamant that he didn't cause the boy's injuries. Gelb, who has been in the Pasco jail since his arrest in December 2009, said he has a photo of his son with him in his cell. He said he loves Lukuz.
"What is the answer to my son's condition?" Gelb said. "I still don't know. But I am going to do everything I can to find out why my son is the way he is today."
He reportedly plans to appeal the conviction.
Gelb could have gotten as little as seven years in prison. The maximum was 30 years. "If I had more to ask, I would," said Assistant State Attorney Eva Vergos.
She reportedly said Lukuz's family feels thankful the boy survived. But Gelb caused "irreparable harm."
Lukuz "certainly is not enjoying the quality of life that a 4-year-old child should be enjoying," Vergos said.
Circuit Judge Mary Handsel reportedly gave Gelb the maximum — 30 years. Handsel spoke of how Gelb said he is searching for answers.To Read More of this Story: Click Here
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