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SALT LAKE CITY — As the father of a toddler who fatally shot himself in the head in May pleaded with a judge during his sentencing Friday, he described the pain he's gone through and the changes he's made in the months since his son's death.
During the emotional sentencing hearing, Tasman William Maile, 28, of West Valley City, told 3rd District Judge Todd Shaughnessy about the suffering he endured as he waited in jail while his son was in a hospital bed.
"I'm just at a state right now where sometimes I can't even function," he said tearfully, apologizing to his wife, family and the state of Utah for his actions.
"All I want to do is just see my son one last time," he said.
Maile, as well as his family members, asked the judge not to send him to jail and said he's already punishing himself more than any amount of incarceration could.
Maile pleaded guilty in July to a reduced charge of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor; obstructing justice, a third-degree felony; three counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony; and drug distribution, a class A misdemeanor.
Maile was originally [charged with child abuse homicide](< Salt Lake County Jail Father of toddler who shot himself charged with child abuse homicide>), a second-degree felony, in the death of 2-year-old Tevita Puniani Maile.
According to the boy's obituary, "Puniani was certainly the light of his family. He absolutely kept the family together with his love and welcoming attitude. He was full of life and was such a character. He greeted every person he met with his contagious smile and upbeat energy."
He's been forced to grow up very fast.
–Catherine Kezar, defense attorney
Defense attorney Catherine Kezar also pleaded with Shaughnessy not to give Maile jail time. According to Kezar, Maile has reformed his life and the couple has started a business named after their son.
"He's been forced to grow up very fast," she said, adding that Tasman Maile has been going to counseling and has taken responsibility for his actions.
After hearing the remarks, Shaughnessy said he agreed that no amount of jail could punish the father as much as he has punished himself for the boy's death. However, the judge said, the other charges warranted some jail time.
Maile was ordered to serve 90 days in jail with credit for the 10 days he already served. Possible prison sentences on the felony charges were suspended.
On May 26, officers responded to Maile's home, 2782 S. Fair Isle Lane, about midnight on the report of a gunshot and saw a 2-year-old unconscious on the ground and his father's shirt covered in blood, according to charging documents. The boy later died of his injuries.
Maile told police that he was asleep with a handgun next to him when he woke up to the sound of the gunshot, according to police. He said he always slept with his gun under his pillow "fully loaded and off safety within arm's reach," charges state.
He also told police that he had thrown two other guns into a dumpster, police said.
Though Valerie Maile knows her husband has made mistakes, he is a "great father and husband," she said during the sentencing.
As Valerie Maile tearfully pleaded with the judge to let Tasman Maile remain home, she said she had to do everything on her own while her husband was in jail. Since then, she said, she hasn't had a chance to grieve because she's been "trying to hold it together" for her family.
The couple's other children need him, Valerie Maile said. And throughout their lives, she explained, "he was always there since day one."
She said she believes the tragedy "had to happen" for them to become stronger as a family and, through the ordeal, they've learned that family is everything.
"I know it's killing him inside," she said of losing their son.
Maile's mother, Lita Ta’ufo’ou Maile, echoed her daughter-in-law's thoughts and said that she would trade places with her son if she could.
And for Maile, he said, the ordeal has brought the family back to their faith and his goal is for them to eventually get sealed in an LDS temple.
"I want to be a good dad and I want to continue to be good," he said.