Nothing is more anti-American than a man being sent to prison because of a corporate cover-up, and that corporation's power over a local government and justice system. This time their heinous actions will be coming back to haunt Mercy Medical Center of Redding, California (“Mercy”) and the Shasta County Justice System. A “whistle blower” has now come forward with previously hidden medical documents that question Mercy’s actions, and the Stanford Medical Center has confirmed that Baby Bria Hess’ condition was caused by Spinal Meningitis. A condition Bria was born with due to Mercy’s negligence, and this they hid from everyone, then alleged “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (“SBS”) to shift the blame from themselves to the baby’s father.
In the get tough on crime era we now live in, over zealous authorities have developed a mind set that only allows them to look for the worst in every situation, to find a crime where none actually exists. Because it is politically correct, authorities take the attitude that where anything bad happens—a crime must be responsible. There can be no other explanation! This attitude flows from, and has become part of, the "tough on crime” rhetoric, and seems to get politicians reelected.
However, our American way is threatened when “get tough on crime” is achieved without regard for truth and justice, this transgresses the expectations and norms of a civilized society. This happens when authorities, without regard to the actual facts and reasonable inferences therefrom, over zealously develop a worse case scenario theory, then pursue that theory with a vengeance. Becoming so narrow-minded that they only look for or accept facts that support their theory, while at the same time suppressing facts and information which point to a more reasonable but crime free conclusion.
An example of this recently occurred in Redding, California, where Shasta County and Redding City authorities vehemently pursued a criminal theory, at the urging of Mercy, when world and national medical research reports more properly explain symptoms exhibited by then five week old baby Bria Hess as being caused by Spinal Meningitis. NOT Shaken Baby Syndrome! All medical indications, and tests run shortly after birth, pointed to Bria suffering from Meningitis. Doctor Geddi's of Mercy Medical Center in Redding originally suspected Meningitis to be the cause of Baby Bria’s medical problems, yet there is no record of Mercy ever performing a specific test for Meningitis. Then, after failing to take the normally expected timely medical action, somehow, someone at Mercy planted the seed in the minds of authorities that a crime—not a pre-existing medical condition must be the cause of Baby Bria’s medical problems.
Once the authorities began their witch hunt for a crime, they never looked back at the overwhelming evidence of a pre-existing medical problem. They pursued their criminal theory and prosecution with a vengeance, they tried the baby’s father in the press and media, they suppressed and possibly hid the relevant medical evidence with the help of a now malpractice concerned Mercy Medical Center, and they subsequently convicted the father of shaking baby Bria so severely that “Shaken Baby Syndrome” was the alleged cause of all her medical problems. Because of the suppression of medical information, the jury was never allowed to hear the medical evidence surrounding baby Bria’s Meningitis. In the middle of the trial, a “Whistle Blower” employee at Mercy anonymously mailed previously hidden medical reports to baby Bria’s mother. Nevertheless, the jury only heard the prosecution’s shaken baby syndrome theory, while the justice system refused to allow the defense to present Meningitis information. The father, Gary M. Hess, 42, was subsequently convicted of assault with great bodily injury and sentenced to nine years in state prison.
From the beginning, Shasta County Children’s Protective Services (“CPS”) also accepted only the criminal theory, while rejecting the medical explanation of Meningitis. Accordingly, CPS immediately pursued a termination of parental rights action in the Shasta County Superior Court. Baby Bria was placed into the Foster Care Program. Her same medical problems continued, and on March 1, 2002, she was rushed to the Lucille Packard wing of the Stanford Medical Center, whose specialty is infants and children. Bria was extensively tested resulting in an unequivocal showing that Bria suffers from a form of Spinal Meningitis that can only come from the birth canal. In other words: Bria was born with Meningitis!
On June 7, 2002, a hearing was held in the Shasta County Superior Court before Judge Gallagher to terminate the parental rights of both parents. Much to the chagrin of authorities, potentially embarrassing testimony was heard that brought forward the information showing the existence of Meningitis in baby Bria from the time of her birth, thus seriously questioning the father’s culpability. The testimony showed the father could not possibly be guilty of Shaken Baby Syndrome, because Bria’s condition and symptoms matched Meningitis, but not Shaken Baby Syndrome. SBS normally requires a showing of brain bruising, brain bleeding, neck tissue damage, and the existence of body bruises. None of these existed in Bria according to medical reports. Instead, she exhibited brain swelling, which resulted in retinal damage, both of which are conditions, when existing without the other SBS symptoms, can only be caused by Meningitis or Encephalitis. The previously hidden or suppressed evidence, and the new evidence from the Stanford Medical Center, which is now available, shows Spinal Meningitis to be the culprit, NOT a shaken baby. Also, the “whistle blower” has now come forward by name with even more evidence.
According to statements made by persons who were present at the June 7, 2002, hearing, Judge Gallagher was visibly upset at hearing this Meningitis testimony, and asked questions himself in an unsuccessful judicial attempt to discredit what now appears to be a mountain of irrefutable documentary evidence. After the presentation of evidence, the parents requested the termination of parental right action be continued (put-off) to allow for a new and complete investigation. Notwithstanding the indisputable evidence of Meningitis having caused baby Bria’s injuries, and the now apparent cover-up of this evidence by Mercy Medical Center and the authorities, the parents were amazed, shocked and astonished when Judge Gallagher chose to immediately terminate the parental rights rather than pursue the truth which would have lead to true justice. At this point in time, with the overwhelming evidence now available, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind who has heard or viewed the evidence, that this incredible decision by Judge Gallagher, as well as the criminal conviction of the father, which was obviously achieved by a cover-up of facts and evidence, will soon come back on appeal to haunt the Shasta County Justice System and its District Attorney Office, who apparently were more interested in achieving high get tough on crime conviction statistics than truth and justice.
The following history will help one to understand the above described events: Bria Coleen Hess was born on January 8, 2001, at Mercy Medical Center in Redding to the proud parents: Mother Renee Wedgworth, and father Gary Martin Hess, both of Redding. Almost from birth, Bria exhibited digestive problems, projectile vomiting, and other medical complications. Documents now available, because of the “whistle blower” at Mercy, show that Bria suffered from seizures beginning shortly after birth, but for some reason the parents were never informed. Because of the continuous digestive problems, the parents purchased, and kept beside baby Bria, suction type airway cleaning tools which they were forced to use repeatedly when Bria would aspirate her own vomit.
Bria was taken several times to a neighborhood Health Clinic sponsored by Mercy, where a Doctor Sands was listed as her doctor, but who never actually personally examined her. Bria was always seen only by nurses or possibly nurse practitioners. Nothing was ever done for Bria’s medical problems even though the parents made numerous attempts at the Clinic.
On the morning of February 15, 2001, Renee, the mother, left their home to go grocery shopping and run errands. The father remained home with Bria who was then five weeks old. The father was only away from Bria for a long enough period to use the bathroom. When he returned, Bria had vomited and aspirated her own vomit, was convulsing in the throes of a seizure, and appeared to not be breathing. This sight was every parent's worst nightmare. The father immediately attempted every first aid technique he knew in an attempt to revive Bria, who was by now almost purple in color. He attempted clearing her nasal passages and mouth with the suction tools, but she still was not breathing. Next he picked her up, turned her over placing her across his forearm with her head down and attempted some CPR type compressions, even though he had never received formal training he had seen this done on television. Bria eventually responded with choking sounds that indicated she was attempting to breathe on her own. However, she was now obviously having a seizure. Soon thereafter, Renee and her other daughter, a teenager, returned from shopping. The father told Renee to phone 911 for help while he continued trying to revive Bria as her condition continued to worsen. He then made the decision they could not wait any longer, so they rushed to the Everyday Health Care Clinic. As they were leaving their residence, Renee told her teenage daughter to call 911 and have them meet them at the Health Clinic. Later, during the father’s trial it came out that neither mother or daughter had actually made either of those 911 calls.
When they arrived at the
Clinic, the medical staff verified the baby was having a seizure and the
Clinic called 911, whose response team arrived almost immediately as they
had been close by. The father assumed this quick arrival was because
of Renee’s 911 call, when it was actually coincidence.
The hospital intubated Bria, which is the placing of an air hose down her airway, then placed her in the Intensive Care Unit (“ICU”). The parents waited for a lengthy seeming time before they were finally allowed to speak with Doctor Geddi’, who originally suspected Meningitis, and who then had the father describe what had happened. The Doctor then stated he would order some tests. Because Bria appeared to be in a coma like state, the very worried parents waited for further developments in the ICU waiting room, that is other than when the father left briefly to get them some food.
It appears that rather than performing the medically indicated tests, Mercy Medical Center instead chose to call the Redding Police Department (“RPD”). At approximately midnight, RPD officers appeared at the hospital, and forcibly, but separately, escorted the parents to police headquarters where they were interrogated to the point of grilling. The police released them at approximately 3:00 a.m., allowing them to return to the hospital. Hospital staff encouraged them to go home stating they would be called if there were any developments.
In the early afternoon of
February 16, 2001, RPD officers stormed their house, SWAT Team style with
guns drawn, they forcibly removed the father to the police station, yet
claimed he was not under arrest. For the next three intense and grueling
hours, the police conducted an inquisition so fervent the father thought
he was in Nazi Germany, as the police attempted to ransack his mind, then
After sitting in jail from February 16, until September of 2001, the father was put on trial and convicted of assault with great bodily injury for allegedly shaking baby Bria. The trial was a sham, because of numerous violations of his civil and due process rights. The most egregious miscarriage of justice surrounded the father’s defense not being allowed a doctor to examine Bria and testify as an expert witness, and introduce the Meningitis condition. Instead, he was forced to rely solely on the prosecutions two "expert” witnesses: one of whom makes his living as a professional witness testifying only for the prosecution; the other being Doctor Geddi, who failed to perform the Meningitis testing in the first place, and who recent evidence now shows would have been reluctant to testify about a situation that has potential malpractice implications. This coupled with an overzealous prosecutor, more interested in a conviction than truth and justice, who managed to get Judge Ruggiero to not allow any Meningitis questioning of the two so called “expert” witnesses.
Prior to and during the trial, the father was tried and excoriated in the local press and media, through prosecution and Mercy Medical Center statements and disinformation. Never during the trial was any evidence which would have shown the true cause of baby Bria’s condition—Spinal Meningitis—ever allowed to be brought forth at the trial.
Following the February 15, 2001, medical episode, Bria had at least two surgeries on her stomach that Mercy continued to blame on shaken baby syndrome. On March 1, 2002, Bria was rushed to the Lucille Packard wing of the Stanford Medical Center not expected to live through the night. However, she did live, and extensive medical tests were performed which showed that Bria had suffered from birth with “Newborn Spinal Meningitis,” a condition that normally results in brain swelling, and also a rare form of “Intestinal Meningitis,” a condition that now explains Bria’s digestive problems, projectile vomiting, and aspiration of her own vomit. She not only had Meningitis, but she had two types of Meningitis!
The Doctors at Stanford were puzzled that Mercy Medical Center adamantly maintained throughout this ordeal that Bria did not have any form of Meningitis, yet Newborn Spinal Meningitis can only be transferred from the mother to the child through the womb. The prosecution’s paid Doctor witness and Mercy Medical Center’s so called “expert,” Dr. Geddi’, both testified during the father’s trial that Bria did not have any form of Meningitis, and that her injuries could only come from shaken baby syndrome. This testimony resulted in a ruling from Judge Ruggiero that the defense could not pursue the Meningitis issue. All of this bewildered and troubled Stanford Medical Center staff when their tests proved Bria had been suffering from Meningitis since her birth. She exhibited the classic Meningitis symptoms, yet Mercy and the prosecution in Shasta County refused to test for or consider Meningitis. Additionally, it has now been exposed that the mother’s medical records show that the mother herself had the classic Meningitis signs at the time of Bria’s birth, and that someone had made a huge medical blunder by allowing Renee to deliver Bria normally through the birth canal. She should have delivered Bria via caesarian section which could have prevented Bria from contracting the Meningitis from her mother’s birth canal.
It is readily apparent through hindsight that a good deal of evidence was suppressed, but was it an oversight or a deliberate cover up? The previously hidden evidence now shows us that Mercy Medical Center had good reason to fear this evidence, and Mercy has certainly been a participant in previous cover-ups. Just recently, June of 2002, it was announced in the media that Mercy had been exposed by “whistle blowers” in a Medicare billing scam they had attempted to cover-up. Mercy Medical Center’s parent organization, the Catholic Church, has a long history of bad apples in its hierarchy perpetuating cover ups. The most recent being exposed is the covering-up of priests who abuse children.
In this situation, where it appears they mishandled a Meningitis case, and then attempted to shift the blame to the baby’s father and shaken baby syndrome, Mercy had a huge financial malpractice liability at risk that in someone’s mind may have justified yet another cover up. If so, their actions were outrageous! They ruined several lives, including that of Bria who will never be normal, and also that of her father who is now rotting away in prison. Who are the real criminals here? Will the “tough on crime" authorities do anything about them?
Written by Tom Watson - June 12, 2002
Shaken Baby - Article
different than police interview
Note: Shasta County District
Attorney McGregor Scott
was on Mercy Board at time of this case; now U.S. Attorney Eastern District
Tom Watson Writings - Index
Judicial Terror in Shasta County
Three Strikes Legal Index