PHOENIX - 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.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said his office and 35-year-old Shanesha Taylor have an agreement under which he'll dismiss two felony child abuse 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.
"I am grateful for the opportunity that was extended to me, to, you know, resolve this situation, as well as to show my intentions," said Taylor.
"I'd like to thank lastly those who donated money, sent cards, sent e-mails, sent letters. Even those of you who signed petitions wrote letters of support or phoned in."
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.
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 thousands of dollars in donations for her.
Montgomery called the agreement a "just resolution" that holds Taylor accountable while serving the best interests of her family.
"If she doesn't comply, we can move forward then and reassert the charges," said Montgomery.
And as far as those who feel the deal rewards bad behavior, Montgomery said Taylor has a clean history and was looking for work so she could provide for her kids.
When that's not the case, it can be a different outcome.
"Going to get drugs or going to do something where they thought it was more convenient to leave their children in the car, that's an unacceptable circumstance," said Montgomery.
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, the judge 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.
Shanesha Taylor has used some of the money to secure a new place to live, her lawyer said.
People in the Valley have mixed reactions to the decision.
Some say the punishment doesn’t fit.
“I think that’s bad, they should charge her they should do something more, they're being too lenient on her,” Angie Holguin said.
Others think you have to look at the motivation.
“She was trying to support her kids and get them help and she did the right thing. she had an interview, it’s not like she left them there to go to a bar or something," said Cierra Rubio.