CHARLES CITY | A 19-year-old Boone man has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to injuring his girlfriend's 2-month-old baby boy in Charles City in October 2016.
Judge DeDra Schroeder on Monday sentenced Nathan Douglas Jacobson to a prison term not to exceed five years, with credit for time served. A $750 fine was suspended.
Police said Jacobson dropped, shook and slapped the 2-month-old, causing bruising on his face and head, subdural bleeding, retinal bleeding and an altered mental status, according to court documents.
Jacobson was initially charged with felony child endangerment causing serious injury but pleaded down to a lesser felony, child endangerment causing bodily injury. He filed a written plea of guilty to the amended charge on Nov. 6.
Floyd County District Court in December received 20 letters of recommendations and character references on Jacobson’s behalf.
Letters range from family members and friends to Boone Community School District employees. Many of the letters asked for compassionate sentencing and claimed Jacobson never meant to purposely hurt the baby.
"He was a kid that was in the wrong place at the wrong time," his uncle Eric Jacobson wrote.
Rhesa Dane, Jacobson's great aunt, claims he accidentally dropped the baby in a "frightening incident" when the 2-month-old allegedly twisted out of his arms.
"He was a minor when this happened and trying to tend to the child to the best of his ability," Dane wrote.
Jacobson was 17 years old when the incident occurred, a point noted in several letters as well.
"He lost everything in an instant," his grandmother Rebecca Aspengren said. "This is not a mean and violent boy."
One letter noted the child was not biologically his, but he loved the mother, who was 20 at the time, and cared for her child.
"On a visit to our house shortly after the baby was born, Nathan showed nothing but compassion, patience and competence in caring for the child," his mother Melissa Jacobson said.
The Globe Gazette is not publishing the full letters from Jacobson's grandmother and mother, as they contain information that identifies the victim.
Many of the letters reference Jacobson's "chaotic" childhood and his drive to get his high school diploma through this incident.
Kim Kitterman, Futures director and teacher at Boone Schools, noted Jacobson graduated from the district in 2017 and was talented in football, art and music.
"While at Futures, Nate was always respectful and police to his peers, teachers and staff," Kitterman wrote, describing Jacobson as a "very intelligent young man" who completed assignments on time and had good attendance.
As a sophomore, Jacobson had family members who needed his help, Boone High School At-Risk Coordinator Todd Smith wrote, which led him to enroll in Futures, the district's alternative school.
"I do not know the situation he finds himself in today, before the court," Smith wrote. "I do know that Nate has a good soul and character. He simply puts himself in hard situations to help others, which costs Nate a great deal."
Pamela Nystrom, a retired Boone Schools administrator, said Jacobson "stood by her (girlfriend) and tried to create a home for himself, the girl and the little boy. Nathan was very young to carry this responsibility, I believe he was 17."
Nystrom said the charges shocked her, because "he never seemed like an angry person or was ever volataile in his actions/reactions toward others."
Georgia Robertson of Des Moines said she had known Jacobson since he was in second grade when she was a mentoring facilitator with Youth & Shelter Services. He was in the program for seven years, according to Robertson.
"I really got to know Nathan and was in total shock when I heard what he had been charged with," she wrote.
She said he was a hard worker in school and called him a kindhearted, empathetic young man.
"The events that happened to the baby who was in his care had to have been an accident, there is no way Nathan could have intentionally hurt this baby," Robertson said.
Jacobson filed an appeal Monday.