The defense calls it a parental rights case, a mother who had exhausted all alternatives to prevent her daughter’s continuous promiscuity — from curfews, to counseling, to locking her daughter up. Ultimately, she asked someone to pierce her daughter’s private area to make it difficult to have sex.
But the prosecution calls it an act of malice, a mother upset with her 13-year-old daughter for having sex with the mother’s boyfriend.
“The mother ended up forcing her to have a vaginal piercing that ended up getting infected and held her down and shaved her head so she would be unattractive to boys,” Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca told Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt on Friday. “I believe it was maliciously done by the mother because she was mad that her boyfriend had sex with her daughter.”
Defense attorney Donald Day disputed it was a vindictive act.
“This child was totally out of control,” Day argued.
Both sides were in court Friday for a status conference, to see how far the case had proceeded. No action was taken and they will return to court Aug. 20.
The 39-year-old Naples woman is charged with two counts of first-degree aggravated child abuse for piercing her teenage daughter’s private area to prevent her from continuing to have sex. She repeatedly has turned down plea bargains because they involve a prison sentence.
The woman, who is free on $50,000 bond, wasn’t in court. Her name is being withheld to protect her daughter’s identity. She faces up to 30 years in a state prison if convicted.
Day argued she had no “appreciable” record, and Collier and Lee courts don’t show any convictions.
The daughter has been placed with a foster family and a guardian ad litem was assigned to protect her rights. The girl was 12 at the time of one sex act.
The mother asked Tammy Jane Meredith, 43, of Baton Rouge, to pierce the girl’s private area with a post and a connected hoop against her will sometime between August and October 2004. As part of a plea bargain, Meredith pleaded no contest to child abuse and operating a body piercing service without a license, both third-degree felonies that carry a five-year prison term. In return for agreeing to testify against the mother, she was sentenced to a year in jail in January.
On Friday, defense attorney Donald Day suggested that due to the woman’s long psychiatric history, the case should be decided in a mental health court. But Maresca objected.
In the past, Day has called it a parental rights case and likened the piercing to a modern-day chastity belt, something to prevent her daughter from having sex.
“I’m not sure why the state is asking for prison in this case,” Day told Hardt. “I think we can satisfy all the state’s objectives without sending her to prison.”
Hardt, who questioned where the child was, said he wanted to hear from the girl’s guardian ad litem, while Day said he doubted the girl wanted her mother sent to prison.
Hardt questioned whether the girl’s injuries were permanent, but Maresca didn’t know and said he wasn’t arguing that.
He said the child had sex with someone her age, the 18-year-old son of the tattoo artist who did the piercing, and the mother’s 30-year-old boyfriend, prompting a warrant to be issued.
Day said the mother was upset her daughter was continuing to have sex.
“The mother had taken as many steps as she could to control her daughter,” Day argued.
But Hardt pointed out that wasn’t a legal defense.
“Why not?” Day asked, asking hypothetically if he’d say the same thing if a mother put a block on a child’s foot to prevent the child from running away.
“Society expects parents to control their children,” he said.
When Hardt asked if he had case law to support his theory, Day replied: “I have none against it.”
“That’s not the same,” Hardt said.
He pointed out the girl didn’t consent, so their options were a trial, pleading the case, or holding an evidentiary hearing on sentencing terms.
Day said his problem is that doctors evaluated the woman and determined she didn’t understand she was wrong at the time, but Florida courts don’t allow a diminished capacity defense.
Outside court, Day said the woman was abused herself as a child.
He added: “She was trying to stop her daughter from going through the same thing.”