Child abuser sentenced to 90 months in prison
[UPDATED 2/6/15 9:30 a.m.]
In a shrieking emotion-charged voice, Brandy Robertson clutched a small teddy bear as she told her former live-in boyfriend, Michael Abo, she hopes to live long enough to someday spit on his grave.
Abo, who severely beat Robertson’s son, Noah, on multiple occasions at their Sheridan home, was sentenced Wednesday by Yamhill County Circuit Judge John Collins to 90 months in prison. That works out to seven and a half years — not nearly enough in Robertson’s view.
The 35-year-old Abo, a former Yamhill County sheriff’s deputy and Yamhill police reserve officer, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree assault, a Class A felony. And under Measure 11 guidelines, that’s the maximum sentence he could receive.
Two counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment, a Class C felony, and another count of first-degree assault, were dismissed under a plea bargain struck between Jason Short of Portland, Abo’s privately retained attorney, and Ruth Roe, a deputy with the state Department of Justice.
Robertson pleaded with Collins for a much longer sentence, saying Abo shouldn’t get off so easily for such a grisly and life-scarring battering. She asked him to reflect on the police reports he had read and the pictures he had seen.
But his hands were tied under terms of the plea bargain, negotiated by the state because county prosecutors had worked with Abo during his law enforcement career.
“Ninety months is not all you deserve, but this sentence does reflect a measure of accountability,” Collins told Abo. “I’ve seen a lot of tragedy in my years in this courthouse, but of all the cases I’ve seen, there isn’t one that could top this.”
He continued, “I’m a man of words, but I have no words that can reflect the depth of harm that you have caused. That harm has been enormous.”
Abo will receive credit for the 12 months he served in jail awaiting trial. Because he had previously worked with local jailers, he was housed in the Washington County Jail in Hillsoro, where bail was set at $500,000.
Collins ordered him to serve 36 months under post-prison supervision following his release, to provide $600,000 in restitution to cover the cost of Noah’s ongoing medical expenses and permanently avoid contact with Robertson, Noah or Noah’s grandparents, Steve and Karen Sengezer, with whom the child is now living.
Beaverton attorney Meghan Bishop was appointed by the court to safeguard Noah’s interests.
“I will forever remember Jan. 2 and seeing Noah,” Bishop said. “We didn’t think he would make it. He was hooked up to tubes, he was broken.
“Now, he’s walking, talking and going to school. It shows the resiliency of children.”
But she said, “He will have to be cared for the rest of his life, and that’s a direct result of Michael Abo’s selfishness.”
Bishop expressed hope Abo will accept accountability for what he did, changing the outcome of a vibrant boy’s life for no reason at all.
According to court records:
Abo beat Noah on multiple occasions from about Nov. 30 through Dec. 31 of 2013, inflicting critical, life-threatening injuries.
The boy suffered a traumatic brain injury, seven fractured ribs, a tear in the small intestine, a tear in the outer wall of the large intestine and bruising on his legs, left arm, abdomen, upper and lower back, left eye, forehead, pelvic area and the area below his scrotum.
The Sheridan Fire District responded about 3:30 p.m. Dec. 31 to a report of an injured 4-year-old.
The Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office was summoned, and Deputy Derek Trombla interviewed Abo, who told him Noah had apparently fallen down a stairwell. Abo said he heard a thump and found Noah lying on his back at the bottom of the stairwell.
However, a doctor at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, where Noah was rushed by Life Flight helicopter, said the nature and extent of the injuries were not at all consistent with a fall. He attributed the child’s extensive injuries to “blunt force trauma” inflicted on multiple occasions.
Robertson was also charged in the case, for failing to intervene and get help for the boy. She pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor.
Assistant Attorney General Elijah Michalowski told the court Robertson left Noah in Abo’s care despite clear indications he was being physically abused and failed to seek medical attention for him for injuries that were evident. Collins sentenced her to 16 days in jail, 36 months on probation and payment of a $200 fine.
She blamed Abo, telling him at his sentencing hearing, “You scared me, you threatened me and you tortured me and my son,” Robertson said. “You know in your heart what you have done.
“You sit there with that look on your face. You’re a psychopath, that’s who you are. You’re wired like that. Something is deeply wrong with you.”
Robertson asked him, “Have you ever had a nightmare so intense you wake up screaming, hoping someone is next to you with open arms to hold you, to tell you it was just a dream?”
She said, “I wish I could say this has been just a dream for me and Noah and my family. But I’ve been living this nightmare that I want to wake up from everyday because of you.”
She recalled walking into a room at OHSU and seeing her son lying lifeless, tubes protruding from his body as nurses hovered over him.
“Now, watch as the doctors walk over to him and start undressing your baby boy,” Robertson told Abo. “He is covered from head to toe in bruises and rug burns, and has a busted upper lip. The biggest bruise on his body is on his scrotum.”
Robertson said Noah had told her everything Abo did to him — throw him down a flight of stairs, hit him with a gun, jump on him, force him into hot and cold showers and stick his head in the toilet.
“Mike, you better pray someone never does to your two children what you did to my child,” she said. “You better pray (his son) never does this to a child because he always wanted to be just like you when he grew up.”
Also addressing the court were the Sengezers, in person, and several aunts, by phone.
Steve Sengezer asked Abo, “What did he do to piss you off that you almost murdered him? You slapped him around like a rag doll. You stuck his head in a toilet. You gave him hot and cold showers. Was your childhood so bad that you took it out on that little boy?”
He said, “I hope you lie on that concrete bunk and think about the badge your tarnished.”
Karen Sengezer said she and her husband were happy, initially, when Robertson got together with Abo. Given his law enforcement background, they felt she was in safe hands.
But she said red flags soon began appearing, and they changed their minds. “I wanted Brandy to run, and not walk, away from him,” she said.
Noah was once a little boy so full of energy, his grandmother noted. He’s been stripped of that to a large degree, she said, but remains a “very special boy.”
Abo briefly addressed the court in response.
“There has not been a night when I haven’t prayed for Noah,” he said. “I’d give anything to take his place.
“I’m sorry all of this happened. I will continue to pray he gets better.”
Short also offered testimony on Abo’s behalf, detailing occasions as a sheriff’s deputy when he had been credited with taking life-saving measures.
He also read statements from Abo’s daughter and son. The daughter said he was always a good dad to her and she missed seeing him; the son that it was impossible to imagine him hurting a child.
Short said he hoped Abo could lead a productive life after he completes his prison term.