Shanesha Taylor: No original plea deal exists, so why were charges re-filed during negotiations? How could she violate terms of a plea that was never signed, let alone be prosecuted for it?
I, B Cayenne Bird, am in California today and am unfortunately unable to attend the sentencing of Shanesha Taylor in Phoenix Arizona. I do have much to say before I know the outcome of today’s hearing about unprofessional media coverage and distortion of facts that embarrass me as a journalist/editorialist/activist for more than four decades. I may make updates to this column after I see what needs to be corrected in the news coverage. I did clarify some of the misinformation with an Op-Ed I wrote which appeared in many publications on Nov 17, 2014 here http://exm.nr/1vkUSJd
That detail there did seem to help settle the frenzy down a bit and I do not expect Shanesha to get prison or have her children removed from her custody today due to the public outcry that followed the correction of facts. The County Attorney Bill Montgomery does mean her harm because she dared to challenge his unreasonable demand that she freeze the funds that the donors wanted her to have to mount a proper legal defense and care for her children now, not 18 years from now.
What is really primary in my mind is that Montgomery re-filed charges in the middle of negotiations of the original plea deal OVER MONEY.
I searched through the public records and asked Shanesha Taylor's former attorney Benjamin Taylor to give me a copy of the plea deal that she allegedly violated which prompted Montgomery to re-instate the charges. B. Taylor does not have an original signed plea deal because the document does not exist.
The defendant must sign the plea deal which she refused to do until the terms were reasonable, but it was not done in a militant way. County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s huge ego caused him to change his mind in the middle of talks about the terms of her plea deal and put a felony on her record because she questioned the outrageous conditions of his controlling her money that she needs in order to keep from becoming homeless again. If a plea deal that she allegedly violated exists, no one ever stepped forward with it.
She did sign a deal to complete courses and counseling, which she did for 26 weeks at great expense, making it impossible for her to put a lot of time into looking for work. But she never agreed to take the unconditional gift of temporary financial independence that the donors wanted her to have and lock herself out of access to the funds for 18 years, getting it back only if her children went to college. How can these prosecutors be so out of touch with the demands of rearing a family? This was not a huge amount of money to begin with and Montgomery went against the intentions of the donor in what can only be described as a political power play.
Many of my friends donated to the campaign because they wanted her to hire an attorney who is not under the control of the gang running the cowboy-style government in Arizona. Shanesha Taylor never had legal representation that wasn’t under the influence of the rotten-to-the-core County Attorney Bill Montgomery. The public defender Valeria H. Llewellyn never said a word in Shanesha's defense about the lack of a signed original plea agreement, so how could charges be re-filed for "violating her plea deal?" Additionally, the public defender never questioned or brought it up too late, the bogus claim that it was 84 degrees outside when Shanesha walked that 130 steps into an insurance agency to try and get a job. Her two babies were asleep in their car seats in the back seat of the SUV where they lived 24 hrs. a day. The National Weather service recorded a 71 degree temperature on this overcast day in March at noon. The lies about the temperature could have been easily defended since this is a reliable source and anyone who has ever lived in Phoenix knows that it is rarely hot in March at noon. This was part of the public shaming campaign headed up by County Attorney Bill Montgomery to make Shanesha Taylor look much worse during the hearings. At 71 degrees, it was not hot outside when she left the car. She had been living in the car all day every day, so she knew that the babies were not going to die from heat exposure and they were unharmed. Why didn't the public defender Valeria H. Llewellyn do a better job with this detail?
At the last minute, Llewellyn claimed she had a personal emergency and she did not even appear at today's sentencing trial. In fact, no one was even appointed to gather and present the final details in the Shanesha's case. Imagine, no representation from a public defender or other lawyer at today's important sentencing hearing. This is typical of the kind of representation that the poor do not get in Phoenix, AZ.
In the beginning, Shanesha had a pro bono lawyer who takes cases from Maricopa County, Benjamin Taylor, an insider young lawyer striving to make a name for himself. These contract lawyers do not get more cases given to them if they fight back with the County Attorney too hard. There is no evidence that B. Taylor ever fought for her right to keep and control the money raised for her. She was not even present at the negotiation for her original plea agreement. Why not? My opinion is that he took on the case for the publicity because it was an easy win. When Shanesha Taylor questioned the common sense of having her money frozen up, Benjamin Taylor bailed on her. He approached her in the first place to take the case, so what was his motivation in doing so from the beginning. Press coverage is the first thing that comes to my mind. Who sent him in the first place? How would you like to have a lawyer that bails when you question the terms that would put you back on the streets again? Think about it.
Yes, under duress Shanesha Taylor did agree in general terms to save some of the money during a FAMILY court hearing, (not a criminal court and nothing specific at that point). She had no idea that day that Montgomery was trying to put most of her defense and survival money out of her reach for 18 years, money that the donors wanted her to have right now.
Libel and slander filled the media from one of Benjamin Taylor's colleagues, the fake Reverend Maupin. Maupin has since admitted that he had no evidence to prove his claims of financial abuse. The media did not make him prove his claims so they have egg on their face. They owe for damages in addition to a big apology in my qualified opinion.
Then, Amanda Bishop, the 24-year-old Good Samaritan who tapped all my network and that of many others for donations let the County Attorney and his minions Taylor and Maupin ruin her fundraising campaign because she thought that she might get in trouble for something. Bishop did not have the experience to stand up for Shanesha in a strong way once the County Attorney began the divide-the-donors shaming campaign. Libelous statements were made about how the money was spent but Bishop lives in New Jersey. She never saw the cancelled checks that I have copies of which did not violate the intentions of the donors in any way. She literally had no connections in Phoenix.
Bishop claims to have sent Shanesha actual jobs but I reviewed the emails from her and these were scam solicitations requiring payment of $300 for a course to work from home. With babysitting for three children costing more than $1200 per month, job referrals to work nights and week-ends for minimum wage were not viable. So Bishop, who did a good deed in getting us all to help raise the money, let government over-reach and wreck her great accomplishment, lost control of the situation.
I watched it all unfold and saw every move, feeling responsible since so many of my media colleagues and other friends supported this noble endeavor to help a single mom stand up to the system that caused her to make a desperate decision. Shanesha Taylor was in jail at the time that the money was raised. I am a very busy activist for criminal justice reform in California and certainly did not want to be involved, but it seemed so distorted and wrong and after all, I am a descendant of General Andrew Porter and Mary Todd Lincoln. This is certainly not what they intended when setting up the government. The political exploitation by the County Attorney Bill Montgomery to make an example out of Shanesha Taylor is sickening. In America, every individual deserves a fair trial. I had hoped to be able to get the truth out and some of it did get resolved, but over-zealous prosecution is still a threat.
Bishop did the best she could, given her age and low experience level. She is not a professional fundraiser and was unaware of Arizona cowboy justice. Bishop did not send her actual, viable jobs and helped those who libeled Shanesha by painting her as lazy. With all the negative press booming based on the lies of the fake Rev. Maupin, who would have hired her anyway? I was part of a television show where Maupin admitted he had no evidence when he was making his damaging accusations. He is a two-time felon who just got off probation for doing the same type of slander to someone else and lying to the FBI about it, yet the local media believed everything he said and broadcast it internationally at least four times.
Shanesha Taylor needs a libel lawyer because the Arizona media who editorialized lies about her had no evidence, did not check Maupin’s facts and caused permanent and irreparable harm to her. They crossed the line and everyone who participated in this slanderous and libelous public shaming campaign needs to be held accountable. It was disgusting to me to witness as a person who is very well educated and experienced in the ethics and cannons of journalism. Sadly, only lawsuits will prevent this from happening to people who can’t defend themselves in the future. If you really want to help Shanesha Taylor and uphold the principles of liberty and justice, not to mention fairness and ethics in the press, please do make some calls to locate a good libel lawyer.
The Arizona voters have empowered a gang to be in public office including County Attorney Bill Montgomery that former Judge Gary Donahoe recently called "a domestic enemy” of the rule of law in a news broadcast here
I observed Montgomery going all out to punish and humiliate Shanesha Taylor, a veteran with an AA degree who should never had to live in her car with three children in the first place and read some of his case histories where he did not prosecute those guilty of far worse crimes.
A recall effort organizing against him in Maricopa County needs and deserves to be successful. There are 450 people on Facebook outraged over him recently calling a Viet Nam veteran an “enemy” during a public meeting because he smokes medical marijuana which is legal in Arizona. Montgomery was thoroughly booed down by the crowd. We as voters are fully responsible for those whom we allow to sit in power over us and it is possible to take out fascists as we saw in Ferguson when the people got out the vote and put in different City Council members.
This narrow State has cut child care services to get single moms back to work as well as millions in education dollars. They have taken money from education and child care to extort millions for new prisons This article is well worth reading when you see the bad decisions that create more crime:
Arizona gov: We have no money for public education but let's fund this private prison
Yes, Shanesha Taylor made a bad decision that day but the permanent scarring for life, defamation of her character and harshness in prosecuting her over the money raised for her benefit NOW is uncalled for and no one should condone it.
The same right wing citizens who want force women into having children that they cannot afford, are the very same ones that do not want to assist their mothers in real ways and they are not generally smart on preventing crime. There is no way to justify the actions taken in this case. If Montgomery is successfully recalled by the people in Arizona, every case he touched should be re-heard including Shanesha Taylor's.
I may have more updates later as I learn about what happened during sentencing today.
Shanesha Taylor did try and stand up for herself but she was threatened and steam-rolled every step of the way. She did write her own op-ed here and describes caving in and taking money that she needs now and putting it in a trust fund, even though she signed no original plea deal agreeing to do so.http://bit.ly/1PLn9xj
Make some calls to lawyers who specialize in libel and slander suits against media. I never thought when I became a journalist in 1968 and worked to serve the public's right to know every year since, that I would ever speak such words. However, no one is safe when journalists are waterboys and girls for County Attorney in a red state where there is little or no justice.
You may email me about it if you like, firstname.lastname@example.org, B Cayenne Bird saved all the records.
B. Cayenne Bird is a 45-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. A descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln, and General Andrew Porter, she is passionate about human rights and criminal justice issues. A mother and grandmother with advanced degrees in Journalism, Liberal Studies, and Humanities (Cultural Anthropology) she has focused on prison reform making great strides in Calif. supporting the landmark Plata-Coleman case for a decade which resulted in major prison reform. She writes scholarly articles too but prefers op-eds.