Judge agrees to bail reduction in alleged ‘shaken baby’ case

A San Francisco Superior Court judge Wednesday reduced bail for a man accused of causing the death of his infant son earlier this month.

Karl Aspelin, 39, was arrested Nov. 10, two days after reporting that his 3-month-old son Johan had been injured. The boy was removed from life support on Saturday.

Aspelin told police the boy had accidentally fallen, but police and prosecutors have suspected the injuries were causing by the baby having been shaken violently. Aspelin has been jailed since his arrest.

Aspelin’s friends and family packed a courtroom Wednesday morning in a show of support, as defense attorney Stuart Hanlon asked Judge Samuel Feng to reduce bail.

Hanlon said Aspelin — a Swedish citizen who owns a software company and lives, works and has family in San Francisco, and has no prior criminal history — was not a flight risk or a danger to the community. He asked Feng to reduce bail from $2 million to $500,000.

“His family is here. His life is here,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon said his client had not had time to grieve the death of his child when he was arrested and placed in a safety cell — “naked in a cement case,” as Hanlon described it.

“It’s been a nightmare what he’s gone through,” Hanlon said.

Prosecutor Braden Woods argued that bail should remain as set, saying that the baby’s severe injuries came “as a result of the actions of this particular defendant.”

Feng told the attorneys that he had read numerous letters sent to the court in support of Aspelin, and he acknowledged the dispute of the facts in the case. He agreed to reduce bail to $750,000 on the condition that Aspelin surrender his passport, which he did.

Feng called the case “a tragic situation.”

“The wheels of justice will turn,” he said. “I don’t know how fast they will turn, but ultimately, there will be justice in this case.”

Aspelin is charged with felony assault on a child causing death, which carries a potential sentence of 25 years to life in prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office. He is also charged with felony child endangerment.

Outside court, Hanlon called Feng’s ruling “compassionate and fair” and said he expected his client to bail out Wednesday.

According to Hanlon, Aspelin had carried Johan into the kitchen in order to help his older child, a 2-year-old who was on the floor in the middle of some spilled food. He said Aspelin slipped and fell backward, and the baby tumbled to the floor.

Woods Wednesday insisted that doctors from UC San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital who examined the baby felt otherwise.

“His story of dropping the baby was inconsistent with the injuries they saw,” Woods said.

The case returns to court Dec. 14 for a status hearing.

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