Tasheem Battles was a conundrum for Douglas County District Judge Shelly Stratman.

On the one hand, the 28-year-old had no record. On the other, he used his hand to swat a 2-year-old so hard that he caused several internal injuries, including a lacerated spleen.

During a sentencing hearing this week, the judge took issue with the “disconnect” Battles displayed as he alternately took, and then denied, responsibility for the girl’s injuries. Talking to a probation officer during a recent interview prior to sentencing, Battles told the officer that he “took the charge” so that state officials wouldn’t take the child away from his then-girlfriend, the mother of the child.

That account to the probation officer was different from his account to Omaha police in the spring.

In April, after initially telling Omaha police that he didn’t know how the 2-year-old suffered her injuries, Battles approached an Omaha police officer at the Nebraska Medical Center. He said he wanted to talk to the officer.

The officer took him to Central Police Headquarters downtown. There, Battles told police that the girl was acting up, so he bent her over his knee and spanked her in the bathroom.

An hour later, she complained of stomach pain. Her mother took her to the hospital. Doctors said the girl suffered bruising to her stomach, a cut to her spleen and injuries to her pancreas and liver. Battles said he was “frustrated and spanked her with more force than he meant to,” according to a police affidavit.

In a plea deal, Battles eventually pleaded no contest to attempted child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

His attorney, Robb Gage, argued for probation. He told the judge that the girl “fortunately” has recovered.

Battles told the judge he was “terribly sorry.” He said he would do whatever the judge ordered so it did not happen again.

“The thing that hurts the most is that I won’t be there to raise her even if she’s not my own,” Battles said.

Stratman sentenced Battles to the equivalent of 1½ to 5 years in prison. At that, Battles dropped his chin to his chest. Stratman said she was having trouble reconciling the “disconnect” between Battles’ plea and him telling a probation officer he took the charge to spare the girl’s mother.

“That flies in the face of someone taking responsibility,” she said. “Normal spanking doesn’t cause these kinds of injuries. You completely lost it.”

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Reporter - Courts

Todd Cooper covers courts, lawyers, trials, legal issues, the justice system and government wrongdoing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @CooperonCourts. Phone: 402-444-1275.

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