QUEENSBURY — The Glens Falls man who critically injured a 7-week-old girl earlier this year pleaded guilty to felony assault Wednesday in Warren County Court, agreeing to serve up to 25 years in state prison for the attack.
David B. Cook, 33, admitted breaking the girl’s leg, telling Warren County Judge John Hall he heard it “pop or snap” as he yanked on it last March 2-3 in the Glens Falls apartment he shared with the child and her mother.
Cook pleaded guilty to first-degree assault, a charge that is brought when another person creates a risk of death for the victim and displays “depraved indifference to human life.”
Hall pointed out that Cook was not admitting he intentionally injured the child, but that he acted “recklessly.”
“I just assaulted her,” he said.
Then, after District Attorney Kate Hogan asked for clarification of his actions, he admitted breaking her leg, and that he caused injuries that led to blood being found in her diaper.
Cook agreed to a plea deal that will likely result in a 25-year prison term when Hall sentences him Aug. 15. He will have to serve at least 21 years, and will spend 5 years on parole after his release.
The plea agreement satisfied a nine-count indictment that included lesser charges of aggravated sexual abuse and assault for the injuries to the child and counts of strangulation and assault for domestic violence toward the child’s mother. Cook was also charged with animal cruelty in connection with the killing of the couple’s pet bird.
The injuries occurred when the child’s mother left the baby in his care while she visited friends in Saratoga Springs overnight. Cook told Glens Falls Police and State Police that he was “pissed off,” because he thought she was cheating on him.
He said he was drinking beer on March 2, and that he yanked the baby’s leg when he changed her diaper and inflicted injuries to her genitalia while “cleaning” her.
The girl spent nearly a week in Albany Medical Center, and was on a ventilator when first hospitalized. Police said there was evidence of a head injury that could lead to blindness, but that she was recovering.
She has since been released from the hospital and was in the care of a foster family. The child’s mother had supervised visitation.
During Wednesday’s proceeding, Hogan and defense lawyer Marc Zuckerman argued over what Cook had to admit to satisfy the legal requirements for the plea.
“Do we have to go through every detail? He admitted everything,” Zuckerman said.
Hogan said she endorsed the plea deal because it guarantees the maximum sentence on the highest charge, spares witnesses and jurors a trial and results in Cook waiving his right to appeal.
While consecutive sentences on the lesser charges were possible if Cook was convicted of all charges, they weren’t guaranteed.
“Any time you get the maximum sentence on the top count with a waiver of appeal, it’s a good disposition,” she said.
Zuckerman said the plea showed Cook was taking responsibility for his actions and was remorseful.
“He pled guilty to the most serious charge. I think that speaks for itself in terms of acceptance of responsibility,” he said.
Cook, who has a lengthy criminal record of domestic violence, is being held in Warren County Jail, pending sentencing.
He wore a green jail jumpsuit Wednesday that showed he was in protective custody in the jail. Inmates charged with child abuse are often targeted by other prisoners, so they are held in protective custody.