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A San Mateo baby died in foster care. The father thinks he’s the scapegoat

Bin Pan, right, and his son, Brian Pan, in 2021. Bin Pan was sentenced to two years for dropping his son on a table, which led to the infant being sent to the foster home where he later died. | Courtesy Yan He

A San Mateo man has been sentenced to two years for dropping his infant son on a table during a family argument in July 2021. However, after the sentencing, the man claimed that he was scapegoated, and the family’s attorney also disputed the prosecution’s efforts, maintaining the father's innocence.

Bin Pan, 42, entered a plea deal with the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office on charges of child abuse and causing injuries to children under 5 years old. As he was arrested and detained without bail for months and was later on house arrest for the past two years, Pan has completed his sentence.

Brian Pan was only about 3 weeks old when his father dropped him, allegedly causing brain skull fractures. Shortly afterward, county officials sent him and his twin brother to a designated foster home in Pacifica. Weeks later, the baby died of “positional/compressional asphyxia,” which appears to have resulted from an unsafe sleeping position unrelated to any injuries he sustained from the earlier dropping incident.

Initially, Bin Pan had been charged with attempted murder, but that charge was dismissed. Media coverage reported that Pan was quoted “he had had enough and wanted to kill the babies” by the prosecutors, and at the sentencing hearing last Friday, he apologized to the court, saying that he will prioritize family over work.

Yan He, Pan’s wife and Brian’s mother, filed a civil claim against San Mateo County for her son’s death, asking for $5 million in relief. The county rejected her claim last year, prompting her to seek legal action.

San Mateo County Superior Court has since allowed the family to file a wrongful death suit. That case is now pending.

Father Defends Himself

After Friday’s sentencing, the attorney representing the Pan family’s civil claim told The Standard that the father was overcharged.

“I am deeply troubled by what I have seen in the case files on the prosecution of his father, Bin Pan,” Sanjiv Singh, He’s attorney, said in a statement. “I have very serious questions as to whether Mr. Pan was and is in fact innocent.”

Singh said he and his team have seen the evidence, stood in the room where the dropping occurred and reenacted the alleged events. They claim that Pan was “unfairly treated, and was forced to accept a plea for either a crime he did not commit, or more serious charges than he ever should have faced."

Pan also issued a statement to The Standard saying that he became a scapegoat once the county's foster system killed his child. 

Pan denied that he had ever said that he wanted to kill his babies, referring saying it was a misunderstanding between himself and other family members over what was spoken in Chinese.

“I loved and took care of them wholeheartedly since they were born," he said, "and never wanted them to be hurt by anyone.”

The San Mateo District Attorney’s Office declined to address the criticisms.

Han Li can be reached at han@sfstandard.com