A White City former foster parent pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree felony assault and was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for holding the feet of a 1-year-old girl in scalding bath water after she defecated in the tub.
Trevor M. Emptage, 29, appeared before Judge Lorenzo Mejia in Jackson County Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to the single count. Two additional counts of first-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment were dismissed in the plea agreement negotiated between Jackson County prosecutor Adam Peterson and Emptage's public defender, Michael Bertholf.
Second-degree assault is a Measure 11 crime that typically carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months in the state penitentiary under Oregon's sentencing guidelines. But the state has an "opt-out" clause that allowed Emptage's sentence to be reduced to 34 months because of his lack of criminal history, Peterson said.
The "safety-valve" plea agreement was reached after "close and careful consultation with the family of the victim," Peterson said.
The case began just before 8 p.m. on March 4, 2012 when Rogue Valley Medical center emergency-room doctors notified police they were treating a 1-year-old victim, who had suffered severe burns that appeared to have been caused by abuse, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.
Investigators determined that Emptage became upset after the young girl defecated in the tub during a bath, according to the Sheriff's Department. Police said evidence showed the child had been held in scalding hot water by force.
Peterson said the toddler, now 3-years-old, suffered first- and second-degree burns to both feet. She was treated at a Portland hospital — and has fully recovered, he said.
"She has no memory of what happened," Peterson said.
Emptage maintained at sentencing that he did not mean to burn the toddler, but admitted he should have tested the temperature of the water. Emptage's wife and members of his church sent letters to Mejia asking that he not be sent to jail. The victim's family did not appear in court Monday.
Peterson said, at the very least, Emptage had a responsibility to protect the child, who was one of two siblings who had been placed in his and his wife's custody. The couple also have a young baby of their own, he said.
"If you give a child a bath, you act with caution," Peterson said.
Emptage has until July 2 to report to prison.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497.