KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- An Arlington man was acquitted by a jury Wednesday of charges that he deliberately or recklessly struck his 6-year-old son with a swimming flipper.
Bradford C. Bowen, 46, was charged in June of last year with misdemeanor counts of domestic assault and cruelty to a child under 10 years of age. He pleaded not guilty and was free on conditions that he not have contact with his son outside the presence of another responsible adult.
In her closing arguments, Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Christina Rainville said on May 25, 2012, the Bowen family had gone to the river to swim, and when back at the house Bradford Bowen had knelt to repair a swim fin.
Rainville said evidence and testimony showed that his son was behind him, hitting him with a floatation device. She said Bowen hit the child in the buttock with the flipper to make him stop and left a mark.
The matter came to the attention of Vermont State Police after the child’s mother told the school nurse about the injury. The mother took a photograph of the mark after it had been made, which Rainville pointed out to the jury was strong evidence given the size and location of the mark. She said it was clear the mark was deliberate and made as the child was running away.
Rainville said Bowen has a history of being violent with the child. She said there was testimony alleging Bowen had once shoved the child because the boy was shining a flashlight into his face, and when the child was three, Bowen threw the boy onto a couch after the child head-butted Bowen in the face causing his nose to bleed.
"As I said at the beginning of this case, Brad Bowen is an innocent man," said Bowen’s attorney, Daniel McManus. "We shouldn’t be here in criminal court. We shouldn’t be here over an accident."
McManus said the evidence shows that as his client was being hit by the floatation device, he turned around in an effort to make eye contact with the child in order to get him to stop. The child started to run as Bowen turned and the flipper made contact.
The child has autism and other health problems and was allowed to testify via video conference technology from a room outside the court.
Both attorneys talked about statements Bowen made to Detective Trooper Tyler Burgess. Rainville said Bowen admitted to being angered by being hit repeatedly and admitted to hitting the child in order to make him stop. McManus, however, said that the written statement, while signed by his client, was not actually written by him but was Burgess paraphrasing him. McManus said for some reason Burgess did not record the interview despite having that ability. According to McManus, Bowen felt like some things were left out of the statement he signed but was not given a chance to add anything.
McManus said much of the state’s evidence was presented to make Bowen out to be a bad father. McManus said the Bowen children require expensive medical care and their mother stays home to take care of them, leaving Bowen to work between 60 and 70 hours per week to afford care, leaving him little time for doctor’s appointments and school conferences. McManus said however one looks at that, it does not apply to whether or not the flipper strike was an accident or intentional.
In reference to the two other incidents brought up at the trial, McManus said Bowen did not throw the then-three-year-old child onto the couch, but set the child down then went to wash his face because his nose was bleeding. As to the flashlight incident, an adult witness testified that Bowen reached towards the child but there was no physical contact. Bowen’s child and the witness’ children had been playing flashlight tag, which they went back to doing after the falling incident. McManus said the child has a tendency to throw himself on the ground when upset.
McManus also called the child’s testimony into question, saying the statement "Dad hit me twice" was repeated verbatim in response to different questions. According to McManus, the statement sounded rehearsed, however when asked about other things the child had no trouble speaking.
The trial began Tuesday with closing arguments beginning on Wednesday morning. The jury deliberated from approximately 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and found Bowen not guilty on all counts.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.