Friday, July 18
PHOENIX (AP) — Prosecutors and a Phoenix woman reached a deal Friday that would allow her to avoid prosecution for leaving her two young sons alone in a hot car while she was at a job interview.
Shanesha Taylor, who faced being tried on two felony child abuse charges, said gratitude was the only thing she felt.
"I'm grateful for the offer that was extended to me and the opportunity to resolve this situation as well as to show my intentions," said Taylor, who shed a few tears while standing outside the courthouse.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said his office and the 35-year-old mother of three have an agreement under which he'll dismiss the charges against her if she meets several conditions.
Those include completing parenting and substance abuse treatment programs and establishing education and child care trust funds for her children.
Authorities arrested Taylor after bystanders in Scottsdale reported seeing her two sons alone in her car in March. Taylor told police that she wasn't able to find a baby sitter for the boys, who were 2 years and 6 months old at the time. The third child was in school at the time of the incident.
A witness found the infant crying hysterically and sweating profusely as temperatures inside the SUV exceeded 100 degrees. According to court documents, firefighters found the vehicle's windows rolled down an inch and no running air conditioning to keep the children cool.
While Montgomery has said his focus was on how the children were treated, Taylor drew sympathy from people who saw her as a single mother trying to get work.
An online fundraising website set up by a New Jersey woman brought in more than $114,000 in donations for her, according to Taylor's attorney.
Taylor, who declined to answer questions from reporters, thanked supporters who sent cards and money. She has since used some of the money to secure a new place to live, her lawyer said.
"You helped make today possible for me. You gave me life," Taylor said. "You provided a future for my children. I truly appreciate you."
Montgomery called the agreement a "just resolution" that holds Taylor accountable while serving the best interests of her family.
Taylor, who previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, appeared in court Friday for what had been scheduled as a settlement conference.
Judge Joseph Welty of Maricopa County Superior Court accepted the agreement but warned Taylor that it included an admission that she had endangered her children. That admission could be used against her if the case ends up being prosecuted in the future, Welty said.
Taylor, who spoke little during the proceeding, acknowledged she understood what the judge said.
In May, a court commissioner granted her visits with both children under the supervision of a Child Protective Services worker. She has been able to maintain steady visits since then, Taylor's defense lawyer Benjamin Taylor said. The two are not related.
Benjamin Taylor called the outcome a "win-win situation" for all parties.
"Justice doesn't always have to mean punishment," he said.
Benjamin Taylor said the deal calls for her to attend 26 weekly parenting classes. He said the screening for possible substance abuse programs is standard protocol. His client does not have any substance problems, he added.
"Ms. Taylor has requirements to meet also and she will meet those requirements so that way her case will be dismissed," Benjamin Taylor said.
Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed.
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