You may have never heard of Andrew Fusco, but six years ago Orange County prosecutors convicted him in one of the most horrific criminal cases I've ever watched.
In January 2005, Fusco and his girlfriend brought their one-month-old baby for urgent medical care and shocked nurses.
Baby S, as the child is called in court, had been born healthy at Mission Hospital, but now had more than 50 cuts and bruises on his body, rib fractures, lacerations inside his mouth, a torn lip, broken arms, bite marks on his cheeks and chin, bleeding in both eyes, a cigarette-burned scrotum, severe anal tears and highly contagious staph infection in his mouth and rectum.
Rushed to an emergency room, doctors quickly placed Baby S on a respirator and summoned police.
(Away from his parents, Baby S's health improved in the aftermath, according to court records.)
Initially, Fusco–then 20 years old–blamed some of the injuries on his cat, but he eventually gave a confession admitting to punching and biting the infant out of jealousy and anger for all the attention he required.
Doctors also found Baby S tested positive for methamphetamine and police learned that Fusco and his girlfriend used the drug on the morning they'd gone to the urgent care facility.
Fusco waived his right to a jury trial and instead allowed a judge to decide if he was guilty of criminal conduct.
The defendant's longtime psychiatrist testified his patient suffered from "intermittent explosive disorder," struggled in school and was socially inept.
Defense lawyer Michael Molfetta argued that the anal tears were the innocent result of Fusco shoving his finger in the baby's anus to initiate bowel movements.
But, according to the judge, evidence proved Fusco had engaged in a "pattern of abuse" and was guilty of child abuse and aggravated sexual assault. In 2009, he sentenced the father to a term of 21 years to life in prison.
Despite winning minor corrections that did not alter the punishment, Fusco's appeals failed at both at a California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana and at the state's Supreme Court.
At his last stop in U.S. District Court, he argued he didn't get a fair trial because of ineffective counsel by Molfetta and a lack of sufficient evidence of sex crimes.
Fusco specifically wanted Molfetta to explore the idea of blaming the genital wounds on a possible diaper rash as well as other scenarios that could explain the injuries.
But Andrew J. Wistrich, a federal magistrate judge, studied Fusco's complaints and determined that even if Molfetta had handled the case completely in line with the defendant's wishes, the convictions were still highly probable because of the confession admitting a desire to inflict pain on the baby.
"None of the alleged [trial] errors in this case rose to the level of a constitutional violation," concluded Wistrich.
This month, U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner accepted Wistrich's findings, denied the appeal and closed the case.
Upshot: Fusco, 29, will continue to serve his sentence inside Ironwood State Prison in Blythe while hoping the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he's now trying to take his complaints, will overturn his convictions.