HUDSON COUNTY, N.J. (TCD) — Several years after he pleaded guilty to killing his then-2-year-old girlfriend’s daughter while babysitting her, a Bayonne man’s appeal was turned down by a higher court.
NJ.com says that on May 27, 2014, while his girlfriend Jennifer Cruz was out, Reinaldo Rodriguez was watching Karen Lewin, who was 2 years old. Rodriguez is said to have punched Karen in the stomach because she wouldn’t let him comb her hair.
Around 4 p.m. that day, someone called the police to say that a child was having trouble breathing. Medics took Karen to Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health.
At 5:10 p.m., she was said to be dead.
In their opinion about the case, the judges of the New Jersey appeals court wrote that Rodriguez “hit the toddler so hard in the stomach that he cut her liver.”
Rodriguez admitted to killing someone in January 2016, and he got 30 years in prison for it. Judge John Young told Rodriguez at his sentencing hearing that he “split her insides open” and gave her wounds “bigger than my hands.”
Rodriguez recently filed an appeal after a judge turned down his request for post-conviction relief. He said that he was told he would get 3 years in prison, not 30.
The opinion says that Judge Young asked Rodriguez if he knew that if he pleaded guilty, he would spend 30 years in prison.
Rodriguez is said to have said that he had enough time to talk about the plea agreement with his lawyer, that he wasn’t forced to accept the plea, but did so voluntarily, and that he was happy with how his lawyer represented him.
Rodriguez is also said to have agreed that he would be watched for five years after he got out of jail. If he hadn’t changed his plea, he could have spent up to the rest of his life in prison, with the chance of getting out after 67 years.
Rodriguez went back to see Judge Young a few years later and “argued plea counsel was ineffective because they didn’t talk to him enough and because they told him he would get three years in prison instead of 30 years if he was sentenced according to the plea agreement.”
Judge Young, on the other hand, didn’t agree and said there was “no factual basis or any evidence whatsoever” that Rodriguez’s lawyer told him he’d get three years.
The appeals court upheld Judge Young’s decision and did not agree with Rodriguez’s claim that his lawyer did not help him understand his sentence.
According to the records of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Rodriguez will get out of jail in 2044.