Judge denies bail for man accused of beating his son to death

For the second time, a state district judge denied bail for a man accused in the beating death of his young son in June.

Judge Don Johnson refused Wednesday to set bail for Michael Anthony Robertson, 46, father of Xzayvion Riley, 8. State District Judge Trudy White initially denied bail for Robertson on June 18.

Johnson said testimony at a Nov. 29 bond hearing as well as tapes of a 911 call Xzayvion Riley’s mother, Lavaughn Riley, made the day of the boy’s death did not present a strong enough case for bail to be granted.

A noticeably upset Robertson stared downward throughout the rest of the proceedings.

“I think that the judge’s ruling was appropriate,” District Attorney Hillar Moore III said. “The ruling was consistent with the evidence that was heard.”

Richard Bourke, one of Robertson’s attorneys, said in an email Wednesday, Robertson did not receive a fair bond hearing Nov. 29 and he will appeal Johnson’s decision.

“When the defense tried to call witnesses to prove (Robertson’s) innocence of the crime charged, the court cut the hearing off halfway,” Bourke said. “Mr. Robertson is held in custody not based on any proof, but based on an accusation to which we have not been given a fair chance to respond.”

At the Nov. 29 bond hearing, Bourke argued that Robertson did not intend to kill his son, which the lawyer said would make him eligible for a charge other than a capital offense and entitle him to bail.

Robertson’s attorneys brought numerous witnesses to court for that hearing, but only four were allowed to testify — East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark, Coroner’s Office forensic pathologist Cameron Snider, Sheriff’s Office Detective Sonya Harden and Department of Children and Family Services investigator Ruby Jenkins.

Johnson stopped the hearing after those four witnesses spoke.

Johnson did agree to listen to the tape of Lavaughn Riley’s 911 call after denying Bourke the opportunity to play it during the bond hearing.

Prosecutor Will Morris objected to the hearing, saying it was “a fishing expedition and an opportunity to lock in witness testimony and learn more about the case.”

Robertson and Lavaughn Riley, 32, were both indicted Aug. 9 on first-degree murder charges in the June 12 death of their son.

Both parents have pleaded not guilty.

Clark, the coroner, has said preliminary autopsy results show the boy died of an “overwhelming infection” caused by a ruptured bowel from blunt-force trauma to his abdomen. Clark ruled the child’s death a homicide.

Sheriff’s deputies were called to Lavaughn Riley’s Coy Avenue apartment June 12 because the boy was unresponsive, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks has said. The child was pronounced dead later that day at a hospital.

Lavaughn Riley admitted to deputies she caused some of the bruises on her son’s body and Robertson caused the bruises and scratches on his neck, Hicks said.

Robertson denied any involvement in his son’s injuries, Hicks said.

Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Trey Williams has said the agency had “an open and active case” with the family but would not provide any additional information beyond that.

Williams once again declined further comment Wednesday on the case because of its pending court status.