(CNN) – An Arizona mom was arrested and held in jail for ten days after a job interview because of who was outside waiting, her two young children inside her car.
The incident happened March 20 when 35-year-old Shanesha Taylor went to a job interview at a Scottsdale, Arizona insurance company while leaving her six-month-old and two-year-old children in the car.
A woman on her lunch break called 911 when she heard a child crying in the hot car. Taylor was inside the business for approximately an hour during the interview.
“I felt lost at that moment, like everything I had built myself up for, everything I was trying to do, had fallen apart,” Taylor said. “It went from how am I going to provide for my family to what’s going to happen to my family?”
Taylor was arrested on two counts of felony child abuse, leading to Taylor losing custody of her three children.
When her mug shot made the rounds on the Internet, sympathizers around the country thought the actions against her were justified given the circumstances.
The mom of three was at the insurance company for an interview after several months of job searching and moving her children from one home to another.
Supporters gathered on social media, starting a fundraising campaign to cover her $9,000 bail. It raised more than $110,000 over two months. An online petition asking Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to dismiss the charges drew more than 58,000 signatures. At one point #isupportshanesha was a trending topic on Twitter.
To many she represented the plight of single and underemployed parents who face tough decisions each day related to child care. Others saw it as evidence that the criminal justice system metes out harsher penalties to African-Americans than other racial groups.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he was unmoved by the public outcry but, in discussions with Taylor’s lawyer, a much different outcome came for Taylor.
Montgomery agreed to dismiss child abuse charges against Taylor if she successfully completes 25 hours of parenting classes and establishes education and child care trust fund accounts for her children. She also has to complete a substance abuse treatment program — a standard provision in these types of cases to ensure the children’s safety, a county attorney spokesperson said — even though she has no drug-related criminal record.
Taylor agreed to the conditional plea deal in a July 24 hearing and began her parenting classes in August. The trust funds will be established through donations from the public.
“I realize I made a mistake, but I’m grateful that they took a look at my situation and what I was intending to do that day,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s lawyer, Benjamin Taylor II (no relation), said the resolution shows that “justice can be merciful.” Legal analysts and activists say the tentative resolution of Taylor’s case highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior in a moment when several cases involving child welfare are making headlines.
In an interview, Taylor said that she was “in desperation” after her child care arrangement fell through on the morning of her interview, adding that she was facing two bad options.
“Do you pass up the interview that you know is going to save your family? Do you pass up the interview you know is going to give you a future?” she said. “It’s a desperate moment where you decide do I provide for my children? Do I provide home, shelter, food, necessities? Or, do I stay here and do I care for the children?”
Taylor said that she has no ill will toward the person who called 911 or law enforcement prosecutors, saying that she was thankful for those who were concerned about the safety of her children and that she is thankful that the charges are dropped.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond