POLITICS

Father found guilty of manslaughter in the death of his seven-week-old daughter

06/22/2012 03:13 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - A judge convicted a Halifax man Friday in the death of his baby daughter, finding the new father slapped, shook and tossed her after becoming frustrated by a series of business failures and the cries of his child.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Felix Cacchione found Ashiqur Rahman guilty of manslaughter and aggravated assault, and described him as a manipulative, domineering man who controlled much of what happened in his home.

Cacchione said Rahman, who's in his late 20s, had little interest in his new baby and was solely focused on starting an online business in Canada after moving here from Bangladesh.

"The evidence satisfies me that Mr. Rahman had no bond with his daughter," Cacchione said in his ruling that took 2 1/2 hours to read.

"His focus was on his business, himself and nothing else."

Rahman, wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with an Ashiqur Industries logo, sat quietly during the lengthy proceeding, but appeared surprised when the judge remanded him into custody and said "I didn't do anything," as he was led away by justice officials.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Aug. 7.

Rahman had pleaded not guilty to both charges in the death of seven-week-old Aurora Breakthrough in July 2009.

The prosecution argued that the case hinged on Rahman's credibility versus that of the baby's mother, Jane Gomes, who testified she saw her ex-boyfriend slap and shake the newborn in the weeks before she died.

Gomes received a conditional discharge with six months probation for failing to provide the necessities of life for Aurora.

Gomes sat in the second row of the court gallery and was surrounded by supporters as Cacchione read his verdict. One of them had her arm around the petite woman, who had her head down for much of the verdict.

Gomes didn't speak to reporters as she left court.

Crown attorney Denise Smith said she was pleased with the decision and that Gomes was relieved to have a measure of vindication in the death of her daughter.

"She was quite tearful. I think she felt very vindicated," Smith said outside court.

"We were attempting to show that ... Mr. Rahman was frustrated by the demands of a young infant and the crying of a young infant, particularly. The judge found those facts as indications of a motive by Mr. Rahman."

Cacchione found Rahman slapped Aurora "in anger and frustration" on June 29, only to slap her forcefully enough a week later to cause bleeding around the brain.

He said that on July 22, a frustrated Rahman either tossed or dropped the baby on the couple's bed, causing the injuries that led to her death.

Rahman and Gomes are both from Bangladesh and came to Canada to study computer science at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., before moving to Halifax.

In closing arguments in April, the Crown argued that Rahman's denials that he abused the child didn't stand up against the testimony of the baby's mother.

Smith said Gomes made some poor choices in failing to take the baby away after witnessing the abuse, but added that Gomes was telling the truth about Rahman's tendency to lose control and harm Aurora.

The defence argued that Gomes's testimony was motivated by a desire to shift blame away from herself, and came only after reaching a plea bargain with the Crown.

"I still stand behind my client as to what he had to say about his involvement in his daughter's death," Don Murray said outside court.

"It's unfortunate that the judge chose not to accept what he had to say."

Murray also argued that evidence from pathologists and medical experts didn't prove Aurora died as a result of being shaken or hit. He said a pediatric cardiologist found Aurora had a congenital heart condition and it's possible that played a role in her cardiac arrest on July 23, 2009, four days before she died in hospital.

Cacchione accepted that Aurora had an undiagnosed heart condition, but he said he doesn't believe the condition caused her death.

He also accepted evidence of the emergency room doctor who testified that Aurora's injuries were likely caused by non-accidental trauma and not from a cardiac event.

Testimony from several physicians who treated Aurora revealed that she had multiple rib fractures, retinal hemorrhages and brain injuries from various times in her short life.

The medical examiner who did the autopsy on Aurora concluded that the cause of death was a blunt force injury to her head, a finding that Cacchione accepted in his verdict.

Cacchione said Rahman became frustrated after a succession of business failures, "dire" financial circumstances and the stress of caring for a crying newborn.

He also called Rahman a "manipulator" who dictated where they lived and how money being sent from Bangladesh was spent.

"He is someone who likes to be in control and not someone who likes being told he is wrong," Cacchione said.

He added that Rahman was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive to Gomes, who met him at Acadia University in 2008.

Rahman had little interest in his daughter, the judge said, noting that he left the hospital more than an hour after she was born and took a month to name her.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Ashiqur Rahman moved to Canada from India.