Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of decades in prison or longer for the Coos County man accused of violently shaking a 5-month-old infant girl and causing what they say will likely be permanent brain damage and physical disability.
On Oct. 8, Assistant Coos County Attorney Scott Whitaker provided the court and Hunter Berry with a notice of extended terms of imprisonment that apply under the New Hampshire Rules of Criminal Procedure.
In September, Berry, 22, who had been living with the infant’s mother in an apartment in Whitefield, was indicted by a Coos Superior Court grand jury on two Class A felony counts of first-degree assault causing serious bodily injury.
According to the charges, Berry “recklessly” and “with an extreme indifference to the value of human life” held the baby and rapidly moved her back and forth, resulting in massive head trauma that included retinal bleeding and brain swelling and damage to one of the four major lobes of the brain.
In New Hampshire, a Class A felony charge carries a maximum New Hampshire Prison sentence of 7 1/2 to 15 years.
In his notice, however, Whitaker said if Berry is convicted of the first assault charge he will be convicted under the sentence-enhancing provision of RSA 651:6 I(e), the New Hampshire statute on extended term of imprisonment, which means, because the victim was under 13, he can be sentenced with a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of 30 years.
If convicted of the second charge that alleges assault with extreme in difference to the value of human life, Berry can be sentenced under the enhanced sentencing statute with a 25-year minimum sentence and a maximum of life imprisonment, also because the victim was under 13 and because the assault caused brain damage and physical disability to the child that is likely to be permanent, said Whitaker.
Berry, who is not the infant’s father and was previously charged with assault against her mother in a separate incident in December, was arrested for assaulting the girl in February.
The initial call to police came from the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families.
Based on the nature of the case, Whitefield police turned the investigation over to the state’s Major Crime Unit.
Following his February arrest, Berry was denied bail and ordered held at the Coos County House of Corrections after the judge determined he is a flight risk and danger to the community.
Berry was arraigned on Sept. 30, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, jury selection is on hold after the New Hampshire Supreme Court suspended all in-person gatherings, said Whitaker.