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Grand Forks father accused of injuring daughter did jail time for hurting 14-month-old

GRAND FORKS - A father recently accused of inflicting severe head injuries on his 4-week-old daughter was convicted in 1994 of assaulting a 14-month-old in his care in Moorhead.

Steven Paul Klein, 35, was sentenced to seven years and two months in prison for first-degree assault. A doctor's report from that case "indicated the child had head injuries equivalent with falling off a multiple-story building or being struck in the head with a bat by a major league baseball player," prosecutor Thomas Falck said Thursday, adding that the child suffered with brain damage.

Last month, Klein was arrested on a charge of attempted murder or child abuse, following a Grand Forks police investigation into head injuries his daughter received in August 2008.

A doctor with expertise in child abuse determined the girl's head trauma was not caused by an accident, according to an investigator's report.

Bail review

Klein appeared in court via interactive television Thursday to request a reduction of his bail, which had been set at $10,000. The prosecution originally requested a bail amount of $50,000; Falck resubmitted that request.

"We view him as a threat to the community or the children in the community," Falck told Judge Debbie Kleven of state District Court.

Klein disagreed.

"I'm not no threat to society," he said.

In the end, Kleven kept bail at $10,000. She said Klein had made all his appearances in juvenile proceedings in the matter.

Public Defender Daniel Borgen said Klein has lived in Grand Forks since 2002. Klein, who is from Bismarck, lived in Fargo from 2000 to 2002, Borgen said.

Borgen said Klein has a place to live in Crookston if he's released.

Klein told the judge he was released three months ago from the Crookston jail after serving a sentence on a driving under the influence charge.

Prior conviction

In October 1993, the 14-month-old girl was injured under Klein's care. Klein, who was 19 at the time, maintained that the girl was hurt when she fell from a ledge.

A doctor who treated the girl told authorities he found three separate fractures that were produced by at least two blows to her head.

Klein told the judge at sentencing that he did not intentionally hurt the child and said he was sorry he did not seek immediate medical attention for her.

However, the judge said he imposed the sentence he did because the evidence indicated the girl was injured intentionally and he did not see that Klein was remorseful.

Prosecutor Meredith Larson, who is trying the Grand Forks case, has said Klein's daughter is in the custody of Grand Forks County Social Services. The girl's injuries, which will have a long-term affect on her, were not inconsistent with her having been shaken, Larson said.

Explaining the delay in charging Klein, Larson said the state did a thorough investigation. Falck said Thursday that Klein was incarcerated for much of that investigation.

The maximum prison time for the attempted murder charge is 20 years; the maximum for the child abuse charge is 10 years.

Klein remained in custody Thursday evening. He has a preliminary hearing set for July 22.