PLATTSBURGH — When Patricia A. Giddings found her 2-year-old son unresponsive in their AuSable Forks home, she didn't call 911, Clinton County Court Judge Keith Bruno pointed out at her sentencing Monday morning.
"No emergency call," he said, directing his remarks to Ellyah J. Elvidge's mother.
"You drove him to the hospital and then the people — the doctors and nurses who were trying to do everything to save your child’s life, to give him proper medical attention — when inquiry was made of you there is, for lack of a better word, a stonewalling by you, a conscious decision not to provide exactly what happened," he said.
"They were only trying to do one thing — save your own child. (Your behavior) is inexcusable."
Bruno sentenced Giddings, 22, to four to 12 years in prison.
Police have said the AuSable Forks woman and her ex-boyfriend, Brandon Bushey, 25, of New Jersey, were responsible for the 2-year-old when he asphyxiated on Aug. 9, 2016.
That night, the pair had found Ellyah with his neck caught in a notch cut in the top of a 4-foot-tall sheet of plywood affixed to the doorway of his bedroom in the house at 2426 State Route 9N.
The barrier had been intended to keep him in his room.
Bushey and Giddings drove the toddler from the house to University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh.
'THIS WAS YOUR CHILD'
Giddings, clad in black-and-white-striped jail garb and wearing orange Crocs, her hands cuffed to her waist and her feet shackled, listened to Bruno deliver his remarks.
"This was your child, Miss Giddings," he said. "It was your responsibility to care for this child.
"Having viewed the photographs of the conditions in which this child passed away is disturbing to this court."
Bruno did not consider the plywood barrier a safety measure.
"That board was up for your convenience so you wouldn’t have to be bothered with the child being mobile and getting into things," he said.
"None of us would be here today if you’d just used one of those (baby) safety gates."
Had he lived, Ellyah would have turned 4 on Oct. 10.
Last December, Giddings and Bushey were each charged with criminally negligent homicide, a felony.
The charges followed an investigation by Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie's Office, the State Police Troop B Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Clinton County Child Protective Services.
Both have remained in custody at Clinton County Jail since their arrests.
A Clinton County grand jury later indicted Giddings on charges of second-degree murder, a felony; second-degree manslaughter, a felony; making a punishable false written statement, a misdemeanor; and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
In August, Giddings pleaded guilty to manslaughter in satisfaction of all charges.
And on Sept. 29, Bushey pleaded guilty to the original charge of criminally negligent homicide.
He is due back for sentencing at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 27.
In court Monday, Bruno imposed no fines but ordered Giddings to pay a $300 surcharge, a $25 crime victim fee and a $50 fee for processing of the DNA sample that she must, as a felony offender, submit to the state databank.
"It’s a sad day, and it’s a sad way to bring everyone together in this courtroom," Assistant District Attorney Domenica Padula said before Bruno handed down the sentence.
She has represented the People of the State of New York in the cases against Giddings and Bushey.
"We’re dealing with the loss of a child," Padula continued. "Giddings was gifted this young child" and was supposed to protect him.
"She betrayed that."
The People requested a sentence of four to 12 years; the Clinton County Probation Department, which prepared the pre-sentencing investigation report, concurred, Padula added.
"Here, a young child died because the adults in his life failed to protect him and keep him safe," Wylie said in a statement after the sentencing.
"These types of cases are very difficult for everyone involved, but I especially want to thank the Major Crimes Unit at the New York State Police and Assistant District Attorney Domenica Padula for their tireless efforts in helping to bring about justice for baby Ellyah.”
Giddings's attorney, James Riotto II of Rochester, said in court that over the past 11 months, Giddings has had the support of her family, who were in court watching the proceedings.
"I can’t imagine a more burdensome thing to carry than to have found your child died," he said, "even more so to think you somehow, by failing to do something, contributed to that.
"It's something Patricia has lived with every day."
Riotto said that probation, not long-term incarceration, was more appropriate in Giddings's case, arguing that probation would give her the tools and abilities to address her issues.
"If the court is not inclined to do probation, she certainly should not have a sentence greater than her codefendant's."
Bushey's plea agreement sets his possible incarceration for one to three years.
Sniffling through tears, Giddings addressed the court.
"I love my son. I wish I could go back and do everything — change everything," she said, before harder tears made her unable to go on.
After delivering the sentence, Bruno sent Giddings to Clinton County Jail to await transfer to the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
'TOO EASY ON HER'
Ellyah's father, Joshua Elvidge, sat in the second row of the courtroom behind his mother, Amy Kelley, and stepfather, Edward Kelley.
"I think they took it too easy on her," Josh said outside the courtroom, expressing anger with expletives not suitable for print.
"Way too easy."
"Ellyah doesn’t have a life," Mrs. Kelley said. "At least she still has a chance at one.
"I don’t feel (four to 12) is enough. (Ellyah's) never going to get to grow up."
"I only think she should get what she took," Mr. Kelley said.
Giddings's mother, also named Patricia Giddings, called her daughter's sentence unjust and unfair.
"I think she at least should have gotten the same time as Brandon," Denise Wilson, another daughter, told the Press-Republican.
Amanda Giddings, a third daughter, said everyone was against the younger Patricia from the beginning.
"Brandon was like a father to (Ellyah)," she said. "She gets more just because she’s the mother?"
At the time of Ellyah's death, Giddings was pregnant, and Padula said earlier that the woman fled to New Jersey before her arrest to avoid action by Clinton County Child Protective Services.
The infant was born in New Jersey, and that agency took custody of him. Giddings was allowed weekly visits until she was arrested.
"I’m losing my daughter," the elder Patricia said, "and they’re trying to take my other grandson away.
"This family has had enough loss."
The Giddingses and Bushey had just moved to the house in February 2016, she continued, and her daughter did not know the AuSable Forks Volunteer Fire Department was down the road.
A Google Maps search shows the fire station is less than a mile away; CVPH is about a 30-minute drive.
"Anyone who knows Trisha knows she's not all there," Wilson said. "She doesn't understand; she doesn't comprehend."
Her sister would have assumed the ambulance would come from Plattsburgh, she added.
"She's never been in a situation like that before, where she's had to call 911," the elder Patricia said, adding that she would also panic in a similar situation.
"Like I stated, she's a kid. Kids don’t think bad things are going to happen."
Wilson and Amanda said Ellyah would have climbed over a baby gate and recalled watching him unscrew one before.
PLANS TO APPEAL
Reached by phone after the sentencing, Riotto confirmed the younger Patricia plans to appeal the sentence.
"Patricia’s asked me to go ahead and file the notice of appeal."
Riotto thinks Bruno gave careful consideration to the case and imposed the sentence he thought was appropriate.
"Respectfully, we disagree.
"I thought we put forth in front of him a lot of information as to Patricia’s background and her upbringing; some of the things that kind of led to this tragedy, which it is."
Riotto and his client definitely do not agree with the disparity between Giddings's and Bushey's sentences and felt that if she and Bushey were both responsible, they should have gotten the same sentence.
Bushey didn't plead guilty until after Giddings "because basically they were going to use him to cooperate against her," he added.
Riotto said the whole ordeal has been very trying on Giddings.
"She was crying, she was upset to have to relive this over and over again, to have to retell the story and have to go through that terrible event repeatedly."
SPOKE WITH POLICE
Plattsburgh-based attorney David Gervais, who represents Bushey, said it seems fair his client will get a shorter sentence since he cooperated with investigators right away.
"He told them what took place in that room where Ellyah died. She did not.
"She weighed her options for several months before she took a plea, but Brandon spoke to investigators right away," he said.
"If Patricia was going to have a trial, Brandon was ready to testify at trial as to what took place and how the events leading to Ellyah's death unfolded."
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