Flushing’s Li guilty in death of baby girl

Photo by Ellis Kaplan
By Joe Anuta

The father of 2-month-old Annie Li was found guilty of manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child Friday after a jury determined he caused her death in 2007, the Queens district attorney said.

Hang Bin Li, 28, faces a maximum of 15 years behind bars when he is set to be sentenced March 4 by Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter, according to the DA.

“The defendant stands convicted of causing the death of his 10-week-old daughter by violently shaking her and slamming her head into an object,” DA Richard Brown. “It is shocking to consider that a father could inflict such brutality and suffering on one as young and innocent as his daughter. His horrific actions robbed her of her life and the countless potential it held.”

On Oct. 22, Annie was admitted to Flushing Hospital Center without a pulse and promptly put on life support. Doctors found she had suffered massive head trauma and brain swelling, and days later she was taken off life support and died, according to the DA.

Li also faced a second-degree murder charge, which he was acquitted of.

Much of the trial focused on a genetic mutation found in the newborn after she died.

Cedric Ashley, Li’s lawyer who has defended clients in several shaken baby cases, contended that tests showed Annie had osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, and that Li bumped Annie’s head on a night stand in a commotion after the infant appeared to be ill. Because Annie had weakened bones, Ashley argued, the bump caused massive trauma.

But Assistant DA Leigh Bishop called medical witnesses to persuade the jury that while Annie’s genes did carry a predisposition to the disorder, the infant showed no physical signs of suffering from it.

Li has been incarcerated for four years while the trial was pending. That time spent behind bars will count as time served in whatever sentence is imposed on him, according to the DA.

The case was closely followed in Flushing’s Chinese community, and a group of loyal followers, led by travel agency and activist Michael Chu, filled the court pews throughout the four-week trial. Chu, who also helped raise more than $50,000 that went toward legal fees and bail, was despondent about the verdict Friday.

“It certainly is disappointing,” said Chu, who maintains that Li would do nothing to harm his baby.

Chu pointed to the fact that Li turned down several plea deals from the DA before going to trial, and the defense was out-matched by the district attorney’s office, which had a cadre of lawyers working on the case and a succession of medical witnesses.

“It is really unfair,” Chu said.

The activist also took issue with Brown’s statement, saying that if Li did shake Annie to death, then the jury would have found him guilty of murder.

The Li family, including Annie’s mother Ying, who was jailed for four years awaiting a trial for manslaughter but released last year, is deciding whether they have the resources to appeal.

If Li is not acquitted of all the charges, deportation proceedings will be commenced against him as soon as he serves his sentence, according to Chu.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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