18 Months Probation in Home Alone Case; Mother Pleads No Contest to Child Neglect; Was Accused of Leaving Daughter Unattended for 19 Days in 2003

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM, The Times-Union

Continuing to deny that she left her 2-year-old daughter home alone for 19 days, a Jacksonville mother avoided jail Friday by pleading no contest to child neglect.

Dakeysha Lee was sentenced to 18 months' probation and was ordered to take a parenting class, perform 50 hours community service and undergo a psychological evaluation. Circuit Judge Henry Davis withheld adjudication, meaning she won't have a felony record if she successfully completes her probation.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped a child abuse charge filed last year after Lee's daughter, Brianna, was found alone in their Monument Road apartment. Police said the child had been there alone for 19 days after Lee was arrested on misdemeanor shoplifting and assault charges, but Lee and her lawyer continued to insist Friday that wasn't the case.

"We absolutely do not believe that child was home alone for 19 days, and . . . that is not what she pled to," said attorney Rodney Gregory after court. "It was not a plea of guilty. It was not an admission of guilt. It was in her best interest."

The State Attorney's Office also agreed to drop the two misdemeanor cases.

Child abuse and neglect with no great bodily harm are third-degree felonies, and Lee could have faced up to five years in prison on each count if she'd been convicted at trial.

Assistant State Attorney Libby Senterfitt said she deferred to the judge's sentencing decision.

"Sentencing is the judge's job, and I completely respect Judge Davis's decision," she said.

Child abuse and neglect with no great bodily harm are third-degree felonies, and Lee could have faced up to five years in prison on each count if she'd been convicted at trial.

Now that she has a chance to put the criminal cases behind her, Lee, 23, said she plans to continue fighting to win her child back in family court, where her divorce from Ogden Lee, the child's father, is pending. …