ELLSWORTH – A Corinth man was found guilty Thursday in Hancock County Superior Court of assaulting his infant son six years ago.
Nicholas W. Taylor, 30, was convicted by a jury of nine men and three women of aggravated assault, assault and failure to appear in court. He was acquitted of a second charge of aggravated assault. The jury deliberated for about two hours before announcing its verdict.
Taylor was taken immediately to Hancock County Jail after the verdict was read aloud in the courtroom around 5:30 p.m.
A sentencing date has not been set. The most serious charge, aggravated assault, carries with it a maximum 10-year prison term.
Testifying in his own defense earlier in the day, Taylor said he told state officials in the fall of 2002 that he may have handled his 5-week-old son roughly but that it was unintentional and that he never meant to cause harm. Taylor was living in Winter Harbor with the mother of his son when the assault occurred.
Dressed in a coat and tie while on the witness stand, Taylor said “no” several times when asked by his defense attorney, Andy Slater of Ellsworth, whether he was guilty of intentionally, knowingly or recklessly injuring his son.
Taylor told the jury he and the boy’s mother were in a car accident in December 2001, eight months before his son was born at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth. Taylor said that after his son was born, he was taking medication for back pain, numbness, tingling in his arms and muscle spasms that were caused by the car accident. He also was on anti-anxiety medication.
Taylor said he initially told state police and state Department of Health and Human Services officials that he may have caused his son’s injuries because everyone around him was telling him that he did. He said that he now believes that though he could have been more careful when handling his infant son, he never was rough enough to cause his son’s injuries.
“I was told by the state that if I didn’t admit to something that I would never, ever see my children again,” Taylor testified.
Taylor also has two other young sons.
Taylor was accused of assaulting the infant by squeezing him, rocking him back and forth in his arms too roughly and dropping him approximately 12 inches onto a couch. According to prosecutors, the infant suffered a broken rib, bleeding eyes and nose, and seizures as a result of the rough treatment.
Slater argued during the trial that though some doctors believed Taylor’s son was a victim of assault, there were others who indicated that the baby’s symptoms could have medical causes or could have been caused by someone besides his client.
The defense attorney said the baby’s mother, like Taylor, was on medication after the car accident and that the baby was treated for jaundice at Eastern Maine Medical Center in the days after he was born.
Slater said after the verdict that he respected the jury’s decision. “I think the evidence was clear that there was an equal possibility that it could have been medical circumstances or that another human element could have caused the injuries,” he said.
District Attorney Michael Povich, who prosecuted the case, lightly dropped a life-size baby doll onto a courtroom table during his closing arguments to demonstrate how Taylor had handled his 10-pound son. He reminded the jury that Taylor already had confessed to state officials about hurting the infant. “He admitted it. Don’t outthink yourselves,” he told the jury. “It’s as simple as that.”
After the verdict, Povich said he agreed with the jury’s findings.
“It’s the verdict that should have been returned,” he said.
The case has taken several years to get to trial for several reasons, according to attorneys involved in the case. Prosecutors said they wanted to wait until DHHS resolved its investigation of the case before they filed charges against Taylor. Also, Taylor switched attorneys more than once as Slater was deployed to Iraq with the Maine Army National Guard, then returned. The case was delayed further when an earlier plea agreement with Taylor fell through.
The boy, now 6, has largely recovered physically but Taylor’s parental and visitation rights with his son have been revoked, Povich has said.