Battle of experts frees dad in assault trial
Feb. 7, 2015
by Marcia Moore
MIDDLEBURG — The three-day trial of a Selinsgrove father accused of assaulting his 4-month-old son included the classic battle of medical experts and highlighted the debate over shaken baby syndrome.
The trial of Mahmoud Ibrahim, 31, included accusations of marital discord and the defendant’s displeasure for religious reasons that his son, Ali, was conceived out of wedlock, but in the end, it appears the 12-member Snyder County jury focused on the contradicting expert testimony and found reasonable doubt.
Ibrahim was acquitted Thursday night of the most serious charges, including attempted murder and aggravated assault, and was ordered released from the Snyder County Jail after spending 15 months in custody in lieu of $1 million. The bail was set high out of concern that Ibrahim, a former air marshal and Egyptian native, would flee before trial.
A mistrial was declared on the least serious offense, reckless endangerment, when the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision. District Attorney Michael Piecuch said he’ll decide in the next week or so whether to refile the charge.
A majority of the testimony was provided by a prosecution witness, Dr. Paul Bellino, a pediatrician and child abuse expert at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, who treated Ali, and a defense witness, Dr. John Galaznik, an Alabama pediatrician who specializes in physical injury to infants.
Bellino testified that the brain injury suffered by Ali was due to abusive head trauma and likely caused by shaking within an hour of Ibrahim making a 911 call for help on Oct. 28, 2013, when his son began struggling to breath. Ibrahim had been alone with the child in their Selinsgrove home during that one-hour time frame.
Galaznik, who disputes shaken baby syndrome could have caused Ali’s injuries, testified that there could have been a medical reason for them and whatever happened to the infant occurred three to seven days earlier.
President Judge Michael T. Hudock denied Piecuch’s request to call Bellino back to the stand to rebut Galaznik’s testimony, ruling that the prosecution had an opportunity during its case to address the defense witness’s report.
Bellino, who has testified in nearly 200 trials in the past 17 years, said it’s the first time he’s been denied a chance to rebut an opposing witness.