Cohoes, NY – A man accused of killing his six-week-old baby boy was released on probation without bail under New York’s new bail reform law even though the judge had the option to keep him locked up.
Albany County Judge William Carter released Mexican national Anthony Ojeda without bail on Tuesday despite the fact that he could have held him for a felony charge, the Times Union reported.
The baby who died, Eli Ojeda-Harmon, was born to his mother at home in Troy on Oct. 17, 2019, the Times Union reported.
The pair were taken to the hospital where Rensselaer County Child Protective Services got involved, and the baby later went home with Ojeda, who was given sole custody because officials believed him to be Eli’s father at the time.
Ojeda stayed at home to take care of Eli while his husband, an Ecuadorian national, worked to support the family, the Times Union reported.
The baby was brought to the hospital for a “not accidental” head injury on Oct. 29, 2019, but when no fracture was found, the hospital sent the baby back home with his father, WRGB reported.
Then on Dec. 3, 2019, Eli was taken back to Albany Medical Center by ambulance and later pronounced dead.
Detectives interviewed Ojeda at the time and he told them he thought the baby might have ingested methamphetamine, WRGB reported.
He also told investigators that he might have accidentally injured the baby’s ribs when he yanked him out of car seat on Nov. 7, 2019 or when he grabbed him a few days before that when Eli startled him awake.
Ojeda has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault.
He was initially held on a $100,000 bond after he was arrested but because the state’s new bail reform went into effect on Jan. 1, a judge had the option to release him under the least restrictive, non-monetary conditions, the Times Union reported.
Under New York’s new law, judges cannot set bail for most defendants accuse of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.
However, in this case, bail could have been set for the 38-year-old Ojeda because second-degree assault is a felony, the Times Union reported.
Assistant District Attorney Caroline Murray asked Carter to set Ojeda’s bail at $100,000 because he was likely to be charged with second-degree murder soon because the prosecution had evidence that Ojeda intended to kill Eli.
But the judge told the district attorney to take the case to a grand jury first, the Times Union reported.
Murray cannot present Ojeda’s case to the grand jury until the toxicology results come back from the medical examiner’s office, according to WRGB.
The judge set release conditions that included Ojeda not leaving Albany County and his attendance at substance abuse counseling.
Ojeda is also subject to electronic monitoring and had to surrender his passport, the Times Union reported.
“Although the possibility is remote, there is still a possibility that he could flee,” the judge said when he ordered Ojeda to be released, and acknowledged that neither Ojeda nor his husband are U.S. citizens.
Ojeda’s defense attorney told the judge that Ojeda had left Mexico 25 years ago because he feared for his safety because he was gay, the Times Union reported.
Assistant Public Defender Angela Kelley told Carter that Ojeda’s passport is expired and he has no intention of returning to his home country.
The defense has also argued since the beginning that English is not Ojeda’s native language and that he misunderstood the detectives who interviewed him and that the language barrier prevented the investigators from understanding him, WRGB reported.
Police have begun investigating another aspect of the case – witnesses have come forward since Ojeda’s arrest and told the authorities that he was not Eli’s biological father, WRGB reported.