Professional skateboarder Neil Heddings was sentenced to six years in state prison Friday following his November involuntary manslaughter conviction in the death of his 2-year-old son, Marcus.
Before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark A. Cope handed down the sentence, Heddings acknowledged responsibility for his son's death.
"I understand how [the jury] came to their decision.... It's obvious something was going on with my son, and there was something I didn't do to protect him," Heddings said. "I wish I could've paid more attention. I think I understand that now. I think about that and [the boy] every day."
Marcus Heddings died of head trauma in November 2002. The boy lived in a San Jacinto home with his father and the skater's girlfriend, Christine "Pinky" Rams.
In March 2003, the Riverside County coroner established that Marcus died as a result of several blows to his head -- injuries sustained no more than two days before his death.
Rams, 27, was found guilty of murder and could face 25 years to life in prison. On Friday, she told the court she was changing attorneys and seeking a new trial based on inadequate counsel by the public defender who represented her. Cope delayed her sentencing Friday and scheduled a hearing for Jan. 27.
Heddings, 31, already has earned more than four years of credit for time served in Riverside County Jail, and will probably serve 16 to 20 months in prison before his release.
Heddings' attorney, Jeff Zimel, urged the judge not to consider the skateboarder's previous criminal conviction, which could have allowed Heddings to walk out of jail Friday. In 1997, Heddings smashed a skateboard over a man's head and was convicted of assault.
"The court knows of [Heddings'] prospects for the future," Zimel said. "He will continue in the skateboarding community, and because of his celebrity, he can make a difference in the lives of young people."
Cope rejected the attorney's plea, but stopped short of sentencing Heddings to the eight-year maximum despite strong criticism of Heddings in court by former close family friends.
"Marcus knew who was supposed to protect him, Neil, and you didn't do it," said Larry Rasco, a San Diego County man who used to baby-sit Marcus with his wife, Janet. "I want you to know you failed."