If you are squeamish, move to the next story.
Here's why: When the baby arrived in a South Orange County emergency room in January 2005, doctors couldn't focus on the diaper rash and staph infection. His face had been pummeled. His mouth and lips were torn in multiple spots. Both eyes were filled with blood. His ribs and an elbow were broken. His rectum was torn in several spots and his anus was swollen. His face bore multiple lacerations. His scrotum had been burned by a cigarette and also bitten by adult teeth. Indeed, more than 50 bite and bruise marks covered the infant's body.
Doctors notified the Orange County Sheriff's Department deputies of Baby S's condition. According to court records, Fusco initially blamed his cat for causing many of the infant's wounds, though he did acknowledge responsibility for: accidentally dropping the baby on the floor, cramming several fingers and a thermometer into the boy's rectum but only to induce bowel movements, unintentionally burning the boy's scrotum with hot cigarette ash while changing diapers, and stuffing a fish tank tube down his throat but only to help him breathe.
And why couldn't the baby breathe properly? He had swallowed a tissue his daddy put in his mouth to sponge up the blood from numerous internal oral cavity cuts caused, Fusco said, by the cat.
Veteran doctors considered it the worse case of child abuse they'd ever witnessed. But believe it or not, that was Fusco's best, most face-saving version of events.
Not surprisingly, deputies didn't buying it. Perhaps they thought the cat-did-it tale was less than perfect. After all, cats don't usually like to put their paws in a baby's mouth.
Eventually, Fusco admitted that he regularly used marijuana and methamphetamine. He also reluctantly confessed that he had a temper problem and that he'd become jealous and resentful of the attention his girlfriend showered on the baby. He said those emotions spurred violent outbursts.
Sure, he finally conceded, he'd repeatedly slugged his baby in the face and resumed the attack when the baby cried in response; he'd bitten him all over his body and punched him in his chest but only "once or twice;" he'd cut him and treated the wounds with a disinfectant rather than take him to the hospital. He had bent the baby's legs back, breaking them.
In his defense, he said, he and his girlfriend had both been "a little high" during some of the abuse. Deputies got another admission: he had wanted to cause his baby pain.
Orange County prosecutors won a conviction and a judge sentenced Fusco to prison for a 15 years to life term. He appealed his conviction and several weeks ago a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana rejected his cries of innocence and that he was represented at trial by an incompetent lawyer.
But the story doesn't end there. After the appellate ruling, Michael A. Molfetta, Fusco's defense attorney, filed an April 7 lawsuit against his former client. It appears that Fusco is not happy that he paid Molfetta, one of the county's leading defense lawyers, a $75,000 non-refundable retainer and lost the case.
In January, a three-member arbitration board held a hearing and sided with Fusco.
"The panel concluded that Mr. Molfetta's fee was unreasonable for the work performed," the board wrote in a report.
They determined that a fair fee was $52,500.
Molfetta, a former prosecutor, is suing in superior court to keep the entire $75,000.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly