A Family Court judge has ruled that two former police officers accused of injuring their infant son in February did not abuse the child.
The ruling that states S.C. Department of Social Services’ claims that parents Jeff Taylor and Audrey Schurig abused infant Jaxon Taylor were unfounded has prompted an attorney to request prosecutors drop criminal charges, too. Prosecutors have said the injuries are a shaken baby case, but the parents deny any wrongdoing.
Yet prosecutors have not dismissed felonies against the officers, setting up a showdown in court the week of Dec. 14.
The ruling by Judge Thomas White on Thursday after a week-long trial brought by DSS in Family Court – not a criminal court – states authorities did not prove allegations of abuse and neglect against either Taylor or Schurig. Two medical experts for the defense testified that the child’s injuries in February – that included swelling of the brain, bruising, cervical ligament injury and foaming of the mouth – were consistent with an illness from a virus and not from physical injury from the parents.
A different expert testified for DSS that the injuries more than likely came from violent shaking, but the judge ruled that spine scans do not support a finding of abusive brain trauma.
Taylor was charged in March by State Law Enforcement Division agents in criminal court with abuse inflicting great bodily injury and neglect. He faces as much as 20 years in prison if convicted. Schurig was charged with neglect and could face 10 years if convicted. Police and prosecutors allege Taylor harmed the child, and Schurig failed to protect Jaxon.
Jaxon, whom prosecutors said might have permanent injuries in what they described previously in court as a shaken baby case, was placed in foster care. Both officers were jailed on criminal charges then released on bond.
But now a judge – in Family Court – has said that neither did anything to their son.
Taylor’s attorney, Jim Boyd, immediately filed criminal court documents after the Family Court ruled there was no abuse, requesting prosecutors dismiss the criminal charges against Taylor. First, the standard of proof in Family Court is far lower than criminal court, Boyd argued. More, Boyd claims that the ruling also shows that since a Family Court judge has already ruled there was no abuse, the criminal court should be bound by that court decision and dismiss everything.
Neither Taylor nor Schurig had any criminal record before the baby was taken to the hospital.
“My client has maintained from the beginning he is innocent,” Boyd said. “The experts testified and it was clear this was not a case of abusive head trauma.”
Schurig and Taylor had the child together and lived together, but are not married. Judge White’s ruling gave Schurig full custody of Jaxon, now a year old, after the child had been placed with Schurig’s grandmother by the court in an earlier ruling.
“My client is providing for all Jaxon’s physical and emotional needs now,” said Gary Lemel, Schurig’s’ lawyer. “My client has denied from the outset that she did anything wrong, or allowed anyone else to do any harm to Jaxon. The ruling and the findings by the Family Court vindicate her position.”
Lemel said he hopes the Family Court ruling will have “significant impact” on prosecutors’ position to move forward against Schurig on the felony charge of child neglect.
Willy Thompson, 16th Circuit deputy solicitor, declined to discuss the Family Court ruling, but did say that prosecutors “still intend to go forward with the charges against both defendants.”
It remains unclear if Taylor’s legal claim that the judge’s ruling in Family Court should force dismissal of criminal charges has validity, and likely will require a circuit judge’s decision.
Taylor, 46, was an officer at the York Police Department before he resigned days before arrest. Taylor worked for more than 15 years at the Rock Hill Police Department and Lancaster Police Department before working in York.
Schurig, 37, was an an officer at the Chester Police Department who had been a York County Sheriff’s Office deputy and Tega Cay officer.
Taylor is living in the mountains of North Carolina under electronic monitoring and house arrest under conditions of his bond. Boyd, Taylor’s lawyer, also filed court documents asking that those bond restrictions be eased so that Taylor be allowed to see his son and see Schurig – which his bond currently does not allow. A hearing is set for the week of Dec. 14.
“It’s a shame that my client has been put through all this,” Boyd said.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065