LANCASTER –The mother of a Palmdale baby boy in critical condition with a brain injury can remain free while her felony child abuse case moves through the court system, a judge ruled.
After a lengthy bail review hearing that began Wednesday and concluded Thursday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shannon Knight allowed Sahar Anita Prime, 31, to remain out of custody on her own recognizance.
Sahar Prime and her husband, George Zachary Prime, 30, are each charged with felony child abuse with a special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury, cruelty to a child by endangering health, and maintaining a place for selling or using a controlled substance (methamphetamine). George Prime additionally faces nearly two dozen drug-related criminal charges. (Read more here.)
The case stems from an April 1 incident when first-responders were called to a Palmdale home regarding an infant not breathing. The couple’s 5-month-old son, Hayden, was rushed to the hospital.
Baby Hayden suffered a permanent brain injury and he remains in critical condition at Children’s Hospital, according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami.
George Prime has been in jail since his April 1 arrest, and felony child abuse charges were filed April 6 against both George and Sahar Prime. Sahar Prime was released on her own recognizance after her initial arraignment April 13, and then the case was amended April 16 to include several new charges, prompting the bail review hearing.
Details of the case were revealed Wednesday and Thursday as attorneys on both sides argued over whether Sahar Prime should remain free on her own recognizance.
Defense attorney Carlos Morales stressed that Sahar Prime was at work on April 1 during the time when baby Hayden stopped breathing at home; therefore, the charges against his client were “disingenuous,” he said. There was no evidence to suggest baby Hayden had been physically beaten or had ingested any illegal substances, Morales said, and the infant’s condition could have been caused by some other unknown, presumably natural consequences. He said Sahar Prime had been gainfully employed since 2003, she had strong ties to the community and she did not pose a danger to public safety. A stay away order was in place to prevent Sahar Prime from having any contact with baby Hayden and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services had gotten involved, Morales said.
But the prosecutor argued that Sahar Prime should be remanded on $160,000 bail based on the seriousness of the charges and because her arrest meant she had violated her deferred entry of judgment in connection with an incident last November when she and George Prime were caught stealing from Walmart with baby Hayden in tow.
Citing medical records, the prosecutor said baby Hayden suffered asphyxiation on April 1, which left him with brain damage.
“Somebody smothered that baby and the baby lost oxygen and, as a result of that, suffered a permanent brain injury,” Hatami told the judge.
In explaining why Sahar Prime is charged with felony child abuse, Hatami said the Palmdale mother knew her husband used and abused illegal drugs, yet she left him with baby Hayden. The prosecutor said George Prime admitted to using methamphetamine at 7 a.m. April 1, when Sahar Prime would still have been at home. This means if Sahar Prime was at work that afternoon when baby Hayden stopped breathing, then she knowingly left her 5-month-old baby with someone who was doing methamphetamine, the prosecutor argued.
He said deputies found methamphetamine inside the home, along with 13 used syringes, seven spoons with methamphetamine and two glass smoking devices. They also found baby Hayden with blood on his nose and mouth, the prosecutor said.
He said Sahar Prime had a duty to act to protect her child and she failed to do so, which prompted the child abuse charge and the great bodily injury allegation.
In the end, the judge sided with the defense. Judge Knight said she took into account the fact that Sahar Prime’s alleged culpability was not in her performing a physical act to injure her child, but in leaving her child in the care of George Prime. Knight also said the great bodily injury allegation against Sahar Prime was “somewhat tenuous.”
Following the hearing Thursday, the prosecutor said he was disappointed with the outcome. “In the Antelope Valley, child abuse is a serious issue,” Hatami said, adding that he wanted both defendants to be remanded to police custody based on the serious nature of the charges.
A preliminary hearing is set for May 12 at the Antelope Valley courthouse to determine if there is enough evidence to require Sahar Prime and George Prime to stand trial.
Previous related story: Palmdale couple charged with felony child abuse, infant in critical condition
UPDATED 5/12/15: The preliminary hearing for Sahar Prime and George Prime has been postponed to Tuesday, June 16, according to the prosecutor. We will continue to follow this story.
UPDATED 6/16/15: The preliminary hearing for Sahar Prime and George Prime has now been set for Tuesday, July 21, according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami. At the conclusion of that hearing, a judge will determine if there is enough evidence against the pair to warrant a trial. We are still following this story.
UPDATED 7/23/15:The preliminary hearing did not happen July 21. Defense attorneys for George and Sahar Prime have asked for more time to prepare the case. There will be a hearing on Aug. 12, when attorneys on both sides will set a new date for a preliminary hearing in the case. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, a judge will determine if there is enough evidence against the pair to warrant a trial. We will continue to follow this story.