YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A 38-year-old South Korean national from Fort Lee was charged with aggravated manslaughter and ordered held on $1.75 million bail tonight following the death earlier today of his 5-month-old son, who authorities said was beaten and severely shaken over the course of two months.
Choi had been held on $750,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment, after county prosecutor’s detectives arrested him last week.
That changed after the boy was removed from life support at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan at 10:30 a.m. today, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
Charges were upgraded and Choi’s bail was increased by $1 million, according to court records.
Molinelli’s investigators were summoned by the New Jersey Division of Child Protection last week after Choi brought the baby to the hospital in cardiac arrest, with a head injury and a broken rib, the prosecutor said.
Following the child’s death, his Homicide Unit had to choose between charges of murder and aggravated manslaughter.
Murder is a first-degree count that prosecutors in New Jersey bring against someone who they allege has “purposely or knowingly caused the death or serious bodily injury which resulted in death.” They must prove the defendant committed the fatal act “with the awareness” that his or her actions would result in death or serious bodily – or that the person planned or considered killing or seriously injuring the victim.
Aggravated manslaughter, also a first-degree crime, requires prosecutors to prove that a defendant “acted with extreme indifference to human life” – such as when a suspect in a high-speed chase causes a fatal crash.
Murder convictions in New Jersey carry prison sentences of 30 years to life, while aggravated manslaughter is 10 to 30.
Choi also is charged with two counts each of aggravated assault and child endangerment – which would extend the eventual sentence upon conviction.
FILE PHOTO: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia