Arizona mother who left kids in hot car pleads guilty to child abuse, avoids jail time

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PHOENIX — A Phoenix woman who left her two young sons alone in a hot car during a job interview pleaded guilty Monday to a felony child abuse charge in a deal that lets her avoid jail time.

The plea agreement calls for Shanesha Taylor to serve 10 years of probation, undergo parenting classes and pay an unspecified amount of restitution. Her children remain in her custody.

Taylor attracted sympathy around the nation after her tear-stained mug shot went viral on the Internet.

Her story of trying to get a job but not being able to find child care resonated with the public, and she received more than $114,000 in donations through an online site.

But she became the target of backlash after she missed deadlines to fund a trust for her children and questions arose about where the money went.

In court Monday, Taylor provided one-word answers to a court commissioner's questions and, unlike her earlier court appearances, avoided TV cameras outside the courthouse by leaving through a side exit. Her lawyer tried unsuccessfully to bar a TV camera from recording the hearing.

As part of the plea, defense attorney Valeria Llewellyn said her client, by leaving the children in the car, put them in a situation where they could have been hurt.

Court Commissioner Jeffrey Rueter asked Taylor whether her attorney's statement was correct. "Yes," Taylor answered.

Taylor was arrested nearly a year ago after leaving her two young boys in her car for about 45 minutes while she interviewed for a job with a Scottsdale insurance company.

Authorities said the temperature inside the car exceeded 100 degrees. A witness found the infant crying hysterically and sweating profusely. Taylor told investigators she didn't have anyone to watch her then-2-year-old and 8-month-old sons.

Monday's plea marks the second time Taylor has struck a deal with prosecutors to resolve her case. An agreement last summer allowed Taylor to avoid charges as long as she set up a $60,000 trust fund for her children with the donated money.

But she broke that agreement by missing a deadline for putting money in the trusts, even after the amount of her payments was lowered to $40,000. Taylor has said she didn't fund the trusts because her children won't get the money if they decided not to attend college.

Prosecutors had said the mother of three had spent about $4,100 per month, including more than $1,000 in non-essential items such as cable TV, clothing and dining. Taylor had countered that she doesn't live an extravagant lifestyle.

The breach prompted prosecutors to then push the case against Taylor.

The restitution requirement in Monday's deal doesn't apply to the contributions Taylor was given.

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