STEUBENVILLE - Josephine Avinger showed little emotion Thursday as Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Judge David Henderson sentenced her to a four-year prison term for assaulting an 11-month-old girl last year.
But moments earlier Avinger, 20, cried and said she "was sorry" for hurting Bailey Reed while baby sitting her. Jefferson County Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Bruzzese asked for the maximum eight-year sentence, while Steven Stickles, representing Avinger, pleaded for probation or a one-year sentence to the Eastern Ohio Correctional Center.
Avinger had entered a guilty plea earlier this year to a single felonious assault charge stemming from an April 2, 2011, incident that left Bailey paralyzed on her right side and with partial blindness in her right eye. She now is receiving special therapy at a facility in North Carolina.
"Bailey Reed spent her first birthday in Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. Her life was forever changed that evening in April. Her doctors say she will never be normal," said Bruzzese in his opening remarks during a four-hour sentencing hearing that started Thursday morning.
Bruzzese said Avinger gave different stories during the subsequent investigation.
"The most sickening version is the doctor reports that said the baby had to be unconscious on Sunday when the defendant force fed her hot dogs. She was first taken to the Trinity West emergency room and then by medical helicopter to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. The baby was unconscious when the defendant posed her in a ball pit and took a photo she posted on Facebook. The defendant allowed Bailey to lie unconscious gasping for a breath," Bruzzese said.
But Stickles said Avinger "had run away from the truth in her own mind."
"She has taken responsibility for her actions," Stickles told the judge.
Both attorneys called several witnesses during the hearing that included testimony from J.P. Riguad, the juvenile division detective who investigated the child abuse allegations. Riguad displayed copies of text messages from Avinger to Bailey's mother that said Bailey's older sister and Avinger's daughter were "playing rough with Bailey."
Witnesses for Avinger described her as a four-year high school cheerleader who loved small children and children loved her. The chain of events started at about 8 p.m. April 2, 2011, when Bailey was dropped off at Avinger's apartment at 3239 Sunset Blvd.
Bailey's sister already was at the apartment playing with Avinger's daughter, Jaden. Later that evening Avinger sent texts to Bailey's mother discussing the ice cream and cookies she had given the three girls that evening. Avinger texted her mother at 9:10 a.m. April 3, "Mom, I have a problem. Cadence pushed Bailey into a wall and Jaden hit her with a toy horn."
Bruzzese noted, "But it wasn't until around 3 p.m. when the defendant called 911 asking for help."
Bruzzese said Kaylan Ginier, the mother of Bailey, has given temporary custody of her two daughters to Bailey's father's aunt, "because of therapy programs available in North Carolina."
In his closing remarks, Stickles said Avinger "was a great person all the way up to April 2. We have a window of time when something horrendous happened to the child. Sending (Avinger) away to prison doesn't benefit society. This girl has nothing in her past," argued Stickles.
During a 15-minute break before Henderson issued his sentence Avinger sat with her mother on a courtroom bench and cried.