By Joe Anuta
A group in Flushing has been raising money for a Chinese couple accused in 2008 of shaking their baby to death in a case that is only now going to trial.
The woman, 27-year-old Ying Li, had charges against her dropped Jan. 1, while the trial for the baby’s father, 28-year-old Hang Bin Li, began Wednesday.
Ying Li had long maintained her innocence after the couple’s 2-month-old daughter died in October 2007, and was happy to have the charges of manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child dropped, according to her lawyer, who handled Ying Li’s case in Queens State Supreme Court.
“She was relieved and thrilled that her ordeal in criminal court is over,” said Murray Singer, who has represented her since her arrest. “She has steadfastly maintained her innocence since Day 1, and turned down plea offers that would have gotten her out of jail, but required her to admit wrongdoing.”
Singer said the news means that the 27-year-old, who had another baby while incarcerated, has been vindicated.
But a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Ying Li’s manslaughter charges stemmed from the fact that she failed to call 911 immediately after her baby, Annie Li, sustained injuries, therefore recklessly causing the infant’s death.
But based on conversations with medical experts, prosecutors determined that the baby’s injuries were so severe that immediate medical attention would not have saved the infant’s life, according to a DA spokeswoman, which is why prosecutors dropped the charges.
Ying Li was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Prosecutors believed they could have proven this to be the case, according to the spokeswoman, but that charge was also dropped since she had already spent more than the maximum sentence behind bars while awaiting her trial.
Helping Ying Li along the way was a group of Flushing residents led by Michael Chu, a travel agent who gives free legal advice to new immigrants. Chu believes that a genetic disorder he said was found in the infant was responsible for Annie Li’s injuries.
“I’m fully fighting for the couple,” Chu said.
Chu has raised about $50,000 from the Flushing community to help with legal fees and bail money for the couple, and has been calling into question some of the traditional wisdom on baby shaking deaths.
Chu is convinced the couple is innocent of the baby’s injuries, which Brown detailed after their arrest in 2008.
“According to the charges, the young victim suffered severe brain and eye injuries as a result of being violently shaken and at least two non-accidental blows to the head, bleeding on the brain, two broken legs and had a healing rib fracture at the time of her death — grave physical injuries for anyone, let alone an infant less than three months of age,” Brown said. “It is shocking to consider that her parents are charged with inflicting such brutality and suffering on one as young and innocent as their own child.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.