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Leaving your baby in a trash can is no big deal as long as you ‘fess up!

Leaving your baby in a trash can is no big deal as long as you ‘fess up!

That’s what the legal system is showing us today, anyways. A woman who left her baby to die in a trash can pled guilty, and her sentence is… time served (30 days) and probation.

A Montana woman whose newborn son was found dead in a trash bin near the University of Southern California campus in 2005 pleaded no contest to child endangerment Tuesday after four attempts to charge her with murder were dismissed.

Holly Ashcraft, 23, entered the plea in Superior Court to the charge and a special allegation that the endangerment resulted in death.

Under a plea agreement, she will be sentenced June 27 to time already served – about 30 days of jail time and about 695 days of electronic monitoring. She also will be placed on five years’ probation, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy warned Ashcraft she could face up to 10 years in prison if she violates probation.

It was “a fair ending to a tragic situation,” said her attorney, Mark Geragos.

A homeless man said he found the dead baby on Oct. 10, 2005, in a cardboard box in a trash bin behind a restaurant-bar that was a popular hangout for students at USC, where Ashcraft was studying architecture.

DNA testing showed the child was Ashcraft’s. A coroner’s investigation determined the infant was born alive and died from prematurity and other, unspecified factors.

Ashcraft, from Billings, Mont., was in her third-year at USC and on scholarship at the time of her arrest. She was suspended by the university pending the outcome of the case.

In April 2004, Ashcraft went to a Los Angeles hospital because she was bleeding, and doctors determined she had given birth. She said she had given birth to a stillborn child but no body was found and she was not arrested.

I think it’s safe to say that this incident with the baby found dead in a trash can may not have been the first time.

In any case, Mark Geragos — notorious defense attorney for another murderer, Scott Peterson — is way off the mark in calling this a “fair end” to a “tragic situation”. How did this woman get out of having to serve a life sentence in prison? She ended someone’s life. She left her child to die in a trash can, a truly despicable way to kill someone.

Glib Fortuna at Stop the ACLU has an interesting point:

Michael Vick sits in jail for allowing dogs to be tortured to death and is the object of sustained national rage and ridicule(rightly, of course). This woman tortures a baby to death (don’t anyone dare claim that leaving a newborn in a trashcan is not torture) and gets off with probation and sympathy. In today’s America, dogs are more valuable than babies. Nice.

What kind of country are we living in when killing an infant deserves less of a punishment than torturing dogs? Both are disgusting, awful crimes. Both deserve severe punishment. And thirty days in prison is not bringing this woman to justice.

I’d be curious to see what the feminazi abortion advocates have to say about this case.

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  • RightGirl says:

    It was probably considered a late-term abortion by a liberal judge.


  • Stephen J. says:

    I’m not going to defend what this woman did; it was an appalling act and a horrific tragedy. But I think getting incensed about her mild sentence vs. Michael Vick’s paradoxically more severe one, while a perfectly understandable reaction, may fail to take into account several factors.

    We know for a fact that Vick participated in a sport that deliberately tortured another being in full conscious awareness of what he was doing, precisely because the pain and suffering was the point of the exercise. He was being, in other words, consciously and deliberately sadistic.

    Now we don’t know enough about Ashcraft to know exactly what she was thinking at the time she had her baby, or what her circumstances were, but we can make several reasonable speculations:

    1) Having just given birth without drugs or assistance, she would have been in agonizing pain, drunk on hormones and panic, and hardly thinking in any sense clearly or objectively.
    2) Having evidently told no one about her pregnancy or sought help in dealing with it (there is no mention of friends’ involvement, the father’s involvement or her own parents’ awareness), it is likely she had reason to believe she could expect no support or assistance if she asked for it.
    3) The baby being premature, it’s even possible that she might have genuinely thought (insofar as her reactions deserve the name of “thought” at this point, see above) it was already dead or about to die no matter what was done. (Note that the article mentions the baby died not only from prematurity but “other, unspecified factors”; note also that exposure, which is what kills most abandoned children, is not listed as a cause of death.)

    Being in horrible pain, convinced that no one will help you, and convinced that you’re only expediting something that will happen anyway have driven many perfectly decent people to do things even worse than this. It’s tempting to jump to the conclusion that Ashcraft is a heartless, selfish psychopath, and that may even be true, but we simply don’t know enough to say for certain, and it’s precisely that kind of indignation-driven jumping to conclusion (combined with a venal, conviction-hungry DA) that nearly ruined the lives of the young men on the Duke lacrosse team.

    For what it’s worth, bear in mind that she will be under electronic monitoring for almost two full years after this, on probation for five years, and violation of either could get her up to 10 years jail time. If she’s psychopathic or narcissistic enough that she could do this once, she may well do something equally stupid very soon – psychopaths and narcissists have rotten impulse control – and then she will get what she deserves.

  • Cassy says:

    Stephen, I’m sorry, but I simply cannot agree with you. First of all, the very last paragraph in the article tells us that another baby she had “mysteriously” disappeared. So, this probably isn’t the first time she’s done away with a child she carried to term. Second, if she didn’t want the baby, why bother carrying it to term? Third, her reasoning does not matter — it doesn’t matter why she killed her child, the result is still the same — she left her baby to rot and die in a trash can! I don’t care how scared or confused or panicked she may have been, it doesn’t excuse or lessen her actions, nor should it lessen her consequences. That’s part of life. Every action has a consequence. And she should be sitting in prison until the day she dies for murder. Plain and simple. And knowing that she’ll be monitored for the next few years doesn’t comfort me any. She’s still free to walk around and happily live her life, even though she’s denied life to one child, and very possibly two.

    Even if you really believe everything you typed above, I would think that the evidence showing that it’s very, very likely that she’s done this before in the past would be enough to show you that this woman deserves to be behind bars. I would say there has to be a pretty sadistic streak in you if you get pregnant twice, carry your babies to term twice, and then leave them both to die twice. I would advocate the death penalty for her if I had my way, because there is nothing — and I mean nothing more despicable than killing an infant.

  • Stephen J. says:

    “Even if you really believe everything you typed above, I would think that the evidence showing that it’s very, very likely that she’s done this before in the past would be enough to show you that this woman deserves to be behind bars.”

    Cassy, I completely agree with your sentiment; I’m a dad myself and the notion of purposefully leaving a kid to die or hurting one repels and infuriates me. But the notion of living with having lost a kid is equally appalling to me, which is why I can’t help but try to see inside this woman’s head as well – to understand what kind of terror and confusion and helplessness one has to feel to do something like this.

    The fact is, we (meaning you and me as Internet posters) have no evidence. We have a newspaper article. Anybody who reads or Patterico’s Pontifications on a regular basis should be more than willing to take any one mainstream media article with several grains of salt – nothing the article says may be inaccurate, but what has been left out and how what is said’s been arranged may reveal a completely different picture; God knows the press is always willing to convict an unsympathetic defendant whatever the trial verdict. (The trial transcript may be available as a matter of public record; it might be worth digging up and reviewing.)

    If the judge and the jury, who were there and heard far more of the evidence and context than we did, determined that prison was not appropriate for this case, it is entirely possible and even likely prison was not appropriate. Yes, the justice system is capable of startling malfunctions, but that’s not the norm – in general, the verdicts rendered by Western court systems have a greater tendency to be useful and fair than any other in history.

    Since the case of the previous “lost” child was evidently available to a reporter, it’s almost certain to have been brought up in the court – and if the court decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to merit bringing charges, either then or now, it is entirely possible that it was simply not a crime. Women have had stillbirths. It happens. And it is possible that this woman had one natural stillbirth, then had another that she thought was a stillbirth, and was too panicked or afraid to even understand the right thing to do, much less do it. That would be an utterly appalling confluence of bad luck, bad judgement and bad character… but that sort of thing happens all the time, and more often than we like to think.

    Either way, her reactions are so badly off from how any sane and stable person deals not just with childbirth, but with the whole process of pregnancy, that it smacks far more to me of someone with severe psychological issues than someone of careless callousness – after all, somebody with no emotional concern whatsoever would have just gone and gotten an abortion before twenty weeks were up, it seems to me.

    I don’t want to minimize the appalling tragedy here. I just don’t want to see that tragedy compounded by making outrage rather than principle the linchpin of whatever sentence she receives. We’re conservatives, after all; we’re the ones who keep saying laws and rules should be enforced on principle and reason rather than improvised ad hoc with the passion of the moment, no matter how righteous and powerful that passion may seem. I simply think that the court charged with trying her case is a better guide to what she does or doesn’t “deserve” than one article by one newspaper reporter.

  • Stephen J. says:

    Just wanted to add again, for the record: I completely understand your outrage, and I do share it, for all I seem to be arguing for a more dispassionate perspective. It may well be this woman isn’t suffering anywhere near what she deserves to. If that is true, I have every certainty God will make it up for her in Purgatory, if He doesn’t make it up somehow in the rest of her mortal life.

    If she ever truly understands what she has done, I have no doubt she will take care of her own suffering.

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