A judge sentenced a man to 3.5 years in prison Thursday for abandoning his shoeless 2-year-old son along the side of Houston Mesa Road earlier this year.
Judge Gary Scales imposed less than the maximum term because the family had pleaded for a shorter sentence and the man himself had expressed remorse.
“This is one of those cases that nothing happened, but if it had, you would be looking at tens of years,” Scales said, noting the child was uninjured.
Ashley Ryan Rogers, 31, said he was hopped up on cold medicine May 21 when he dropped his son off on the side of the road, believing he had left the child with his mother at a dirt bike track and then gone and dropped friends off.
“In fact, the mother was not parked on the side of the road and he had no friends in his truck with him,” a probation officer wrote in a presentencing report.
Just before 10 a.m. May 21 a passerby spotted the child on the side of the road. The concerned citizen collected the child and brought him to Payson Regional Medical Center.
The child’s mother later arrived at the hospital and told officers Rogers, her estranged boyfriend, had come to play with the child earlier that morning. She left the child with Rogers to attend an appointment.
While several officers remained at the hospital, others patrolled Houston Mesa Road where they found Rogers and several people looking in the brush half a mile from where the child was found.
“During questioning, Mr. Rogers freely admitted to the officer that he abandoned the child,” according to a police report. “After Mr. Rogers was placed under arrest, he stated he was only kidding about abandoning his child.”
Rogers asked the judge to consider probation as did the mother of the child.
“(My son) is my world and it was an accident. I think probation, even intensive probation, would be fair as well. I am not a bad person, never in trouble. I work and go home,” Rogers wrote in a letter to Scales.
But Scales said the plea agreement Rogers negotiated with the Gila County Attorney’s Office made some prison time mandatory.
Rogers’ attorney, Michael Bernays, said he didn’t want to recommend that Rogers take a plea deal that guaranteed prison time.
However, a jury conviction on the charges filed by the prosecutors could have resulted in a 17-year prison sentence, he said.
Still, Bernays said prosecutors should have taken the family’s request for probation into account.
Bernays said Rogers was a good guy that had made “one incredibly stupid mistake.”
Rogers’ family, including his father and the child’s mother and grandmother, all said Rogers was a fantastic father. They said his children missed him and needed him around.
“Since this has happened, he has been lost without him,” Rogers’ mother told the judge.
“He has always been the best dad to both my sons,” the boy’s mother said.
Rogers told a probation officer he took six Benadryl pills at 3 a.m. May 21 and then another six at 6 a.m. to combat a mental health ailment.
In this delusional state, he believed he was leaving the child with his mother parked on the side of the road.
“This case is troubling to everyone involved, as you have an innocent, shoeless child dropped off on a busy roadside by his own father, who, by his own admission, was under the influence of an over-the-counter medication,” the probation officer wrote.
The child was uninjured.
Rogers has been in jail since his arrest.