Champagne Pleads Guilty To Toddler’s Death
Utica, NY (WIBX) - A teenaged babysitter is pleading guilty to second degree murder and aggravated sexual assault in the death of a 2-year-old girl he was caring for.Alec Champagne, now 14, told the court he did not intend to kill the child, but admitted hitting Melissa Calhoun several times and allowing the girl to fall off a bed and hit her head, along with the sexual assault while watching her on June 18th at a home in Yorkville.
The case is being transfered to family court to determine Champagne's sentence, which will likely be a maxium of 5 years in a secure juvenile facility, according to statements made by both the prosecution and defense.
Prosecutor Michael Coluzza spoke to the media after the court proceeding and explained why a charge of depraved indifference murder against Champagne was dismissed, at his request.
When determining depraved indifference, a juror or judge, has to put themself in the shoes of the person who committed the crime to determine what that person reasonably believed at the time. Champagne's age could be a factor in this decision, Coluzza said.
"The problem here is the defendant's age. What does a 13-year-old subjectively believe at the time? We felt, under the circumstances, that if we were able to get a conviction, an appellate court...might be inclined to not find that there was sufficient proof that a 13-year-old consciously disregarded a grave risk of death and acted with depravity," Coluzza said.
An appellate court could have dismissed the conviction or reduced the charge to second-degree manslaughter, which is not considered a serious felony offense in family court meaning a more lenient sentencing structure. Based on the facts in this case, that was an 'unacceptable risk,' Coluzza said.
Coluzza was asked if he felt that a maximum sentence of 5 years in a secured juvenile detention facility was 'good enough' for this case.
"The question is what is the responsible thing to do under the law of the case...What I ultimately feel isn't the issue. What is the issue is what I can prove and what I feel will stand-up on appeal. We feel this brings some justice to Melissa.
"Is five years enough for the death of a little girl, I'm sure if you asked most people they would say 'no.' But, we're dealing in the reality of the law we have to operate within."
Melissa Calhoun died of blunt force trauma.