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Sentencing in Trial Against Former Houston-Area Dentist, Bethaniel Jefferson

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In a recent notable case in Harris County, Texas, Attorney John Kovach of Rosen & Kovach, PLLC, with co-counsel Angela Weltin, successfully defended a client facing 5-99 years in prison for Intentional Injury to a Child by Omission (a type of assault charge). In this case, Jefferson faced theis charge during an incident in which a 2016 dental procedure went gravely wrong, resulting in permanent brain damage to a 4-year-old girl.

Despite the Harris County District Attorney's Office's request for maximum sentencing, including life in prison, the jury convicted our client of the lesser charge of Reckless Injury to a Child. Jefferson was then sentenced to 5 years of probation without any jail time.

Understanding the Charges

Section 22.04 of the Texas Penal Code, titled "Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual," outlines the boundaries of legal accountability in cases like the one against Jefferson. This statute delineates the degree of culpability based on the nature of the act (intentional, knowing, reckless, or criminally negligent) and the method (active commission or omission) that results in harm.

The law establishes a framework for evaluating the intent and outcome of actions that result in bodily injury, serious bodily injury, serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury. The differentiation in charges ideally enables a more nuanced legal interpretation and sentencing process that reflects the circumstances and severity of each case.

Key Moments

The trial scrutinized the actions and decisions that led to this catastrophic outcome. Ultimately, Jefferson's conviction highlights the strict legal and ethical responsibilities medical professionals hold in their practices.

In a dramatic moment described by the Houston Chronicle, Attorney Kovach ardently pleaded for his client to avoid incarceration. Kovach contended that while his client made a significant error, the punishment of prison would be unduly harsh.

He argued that the only risk his client could potentially pose to the community would be in her professional capacity as a dentist—a role she had already been stripped of following the revocation of her license.

Implications for Dental Sedation Practices

In the wake of the trial, the spotlight has turned toward the practices around dental sedation for children, particularly in clinics serving Medicaid populations. A 2016 article by the Houston Chronicle has underscored a troubling pattern of excessive use of sedative drugs and physical restraints on young patients. This investigation also pointed out that Texas leads the nation in Medicaid dental fraud investigations, highlighting a systemic issue.

In light of these findings and this case in particular, Attorney Kovach expressed a fervent hope that this case will encourage heightened regulatory oversight on the use of sedation in pediatric dental procedures.

Consult with an Experienced Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, you are strongly encouraged to seek representation from a seasoned defense attorney. As seen in this case, dedicated legal representation has the potential to make a difference in the outcome of a case. Contact us online today to schedule a consultation.


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