Matthew Najar, 32, pleaded guilty in February to one count of reckless child abuse, a third-degree felony, according to court documents.
Najar was originally indicted in November 2012 on four counts of child abuse. Rio Rancho police reported being called to a local hospital in December 2011 after health care workers reported that an 11-week-old girl had a skull fracture, according to a Rio Rancho Observer report from 2012. Employees also reportedly said they found healing fractures of the girl’s ribs, left leg and collarbone.
During a sentencing hearing Monday afternoon, Najar told state District Court Judge George Eichwald that he’d made mistakes in his life, but said substance abuse was the root of the problem. He said he’d been clean for three years and asked the judge to allow him to maintain his relationship with his children.
“I want to be a father to these girls,” Najar said. “Give me a chance to be the father that these girls need.”
Najar’s defense attorney Leonard Foster said that, in the many years since the charges first arose, Najar started attending Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous classes, and he’s gone through group therapy sessions with the state Children, Youth and Families Department. He even started his own business with his brother, which allows him to make child support payments and support his children, Foster said. He asked the judge to place Najar on probation.
Prosecutor Aaron Aragon asked for 18 months of incarceration, combined with substance abuse and anger management courses.
Eichwald sentenced Najar to 104 days in custody, “one year of weekends,” he said. He also told Najar to enroll in and complete anger management courses, and to continue attending NA and AA meetings.
“I’m keeping you from losing your job,” Eichwald said.
In a brief interview after the hearing, Najar said he was disappointed with the sentence and nervous about returning to jail every week.
“I was loaded and I dropped my daughter,” he said, adding that he took the infant to the emergency room immediately.
Najar said he’s scared to go back to jail.
“Jail’s ugly,” he said, calling it a “drug- and violence-infested area.”
He said he hopes spending the weekends in custody will remind him why he changed his life.
“I’m scared,” he told the judge. “I don’t want to lose all this.”