Sunday, June 24, 2012

Verdict: 'Not guilty' in Erie child abuse trial

Published: May 22, 2012 12:01 AM EST
Updated: May 21, 2012 11:49 PM EST

Verdict: 'Not guilty' in Erie child abuse trial

By LISA THOMPSON, Erie Times-News 
An Erie County jury deliberated less than an hour Monday before clearing an Erie man of all charges he shook his girlfriend's 14-month-old son so hard he inflicted brain damage a year ago.

Scott Drayer, 32, was acquitted of charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment after the three-day trial.

As the verdict was read in Judge Daniel Brabender's courtroom, Drayer, 32, put his face in his hands and wept.

His lawyer, Gene Placidi, welcomed the outcome.

"I am happy for Scott and for his family, and I thank them for all the support they have shown," he said.

Support for Drayer also came from his former girlfriend, Sherrall Maloney, the mother of the victim, Kamar Maloney. She was called to testify for the prosecution, but maintained she did not think Drayer was capable of assaulting her son.

"I am absolutely fine with it," she said of the jury's verdict.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz prosecuted the case, but could not be in the courtroom at the time of the verdict because she was prosecuting a new case in another courtroom.

Erie police accused Drayer of causing a severe brain injury to Kamar on May 11, 2011, in the East 14th Street residence that Drayer shared with Sherrall Maloney.

Both sides agreed Sherrall Maloney had left home for work at about 6:10 p.m., and that two to four minutes later, Drayer summoned her back to the residence and also called 911 for help.

Drayer told police and others he was on the edge of a bed and watching TV when Maloney put a crying Kamar in his lap and left for work. Kamar often wept when his mother left home and tried to follow her, he and Maloney said.

Drayer said he tried pacifying Kamar with cheese curls, and that a minute or two after Maloney left through the kitchen door, he put Kamar down, and the child ran into the adjacent kitchen where his mother had just been. Drayer said he heard a clattering sound from the metal kitchen chairs and table and then did not hear Kamar. When he looked into the kitchen, he said he saw Kamar lying limp on his right side. He summoned Maloney back to the house and then called 911 for help.

Doctors found Kamar had bleeding on the right side of his brain only. Days later, they also found bleeding in his retinas. He underwent brain surgery to relieve swelling and, after months of treatment, returned home. Kamar cannot walk or sit up by himself. He only recently began eating solid food again, according to testimony.

Dr. Joseph Scheller, a pediatric neurologist from the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., testifying for the defense, said shaking alone could not have caused Kamar's injury.

He said Kamar's injury was consistent with Kamar tripping and falling to the floor or with Kamar climbing onto a chair and falling. He said a blow to the head by another person also could have caused the injury.

The prosecution's expert from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Dr. Janet Squires, said violent shaking, not a fall, explained the child's injuries, Hirz said in her closing.

The prosecution said the injury to Kamar's brain would have been centered on the point of impact if he had fallen.

The defense said if Kamar had been shaken the way the prosecution maintained, he would have had bleeding on both sides of his brain. The defense also pointed to evidence that Drayer had repeatedly cared for Kamar without incident for more than a year and was not known to raise his voice to anyone in the home.

If Drayer had hurt the child, he likely would not have called for help immediately or maintained a consistent story, Placidi noted in his closing. The 22-pound child had no marks on his body indicating he had been grabbed and shaken, Placidi said.

"Please use your common sense because common sense exonerates Scott," Placidi said to the jury.

Hirz told jurors Drayer's story was "ridiculous" and tailored to cover up his assault. She asked jurors to infer Drayer shook the crying child because he had watched Kamar earlier in the day and had not expected to baby sit him another four hours that evening.

"Kamar got in the way that night," she said.

LISA THOMPSON can be reached at 870-1802 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at