(SD)-Four Years In Starvation Death Of Reservation Infant
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A federal judge in Rapid City has sentenced a Pine Ridge Reservation father to four years in prison for the starvation death of his infant son. 26-year-old Darwin Wade Red Cloud had pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder in the 2014 death of his two-month-old son.
Red Cloud faced a maximum of life in prison while federal sentencing guidelines, which consider such things as the nature of the crime and previous criminal history, recommended 17-to-22 years.
Judge Jeffrey Viken acknowledged at sentencing Thursday that his decision of 4 years plus the maximum allowed 5-years of supervised release afterward might upset some people as too lenient, but that after hours of thought on the sentence concluded it wasn't a typical case of child abuse.
Judge Viken said there was "no excuse" for Red Cloud's actions and that it was "hard to comprehend" that no adult in the infant's life, including his underage mother, realized he was starving to death. He called the case more about recklessly disregarding the life of another than anything else.
Defense attorney Betsey Harris told Viken that Red Cloud accepted responsibility and was cooperative with investigators. She emphasized he didn't understand at the time what it meant to care for a child, but now realizes he should have asked for help.
Red Cloud had no father figure in his life and a doctor has determined he has cognitive disabilities, but prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney Sarah Collins said many people with similar experiences are able to successfully raise children.
Collins also called Viken's variance from the sentencing guidelines "too extreme" and said it undervalues the seriousness of crime, which she felt required at least a 15-year sentence.
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