Woman’s prison time re­duced for death of tod­dler

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY PETER E. BORTNER STAFF WRITER

POTTSVILLE — Pi­et­rina C. Hoff­man Wil­liams wept as she was re­sen­tenced Wed­nes­day to state prison for the death of a tod­dler in her care, even though her new sen­tence is shorter than her old one.

Wil­liams, 54, of Ma­hanoy City, must serve 69 to 144 months in a state cor­rec­tional in­sti­tu­tion for in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter and other crimes in con­nec­tion with the death of Navaeh Doyle, Pres­i­dent Judge Wil­liam E. Bald­win ruled.

“I still think you’re re­spon­si­ble for the death of this child,” Bald­win told Wil­liams be­fore im­pos­ing the new sen­tence .“The court doesn’t find the com­mon­wealth has proved third­de­gree mur­der.”

Bald­win made the sen­tence ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately,

and sher­iff ’s deputies led Wil­liams out of the court­room in hand­cuffs.

Af­ter Wed­nes­day’s 30-minute hear­ing, District At­tor­ney Chris­tine A. Hol­man, who pros­e­cuted the case along with As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney De­bra A. Smith, said she would ap­peal Bald­win’s rul­ing that de­clared the de­fen­dant not guilty of third-de­gree mur­der and ag­gra­vated as­sault, which she is per­mit­ted to do be­cause ju­rors had found Wil­liams guilty of those charges. Such an ap­peal does not vi­o­late the con­sti­tu­tional ban on dou­ble jeop­ardy.

“We had as­tute ju­rors who un­der­stood what the law was,” Hol­man said. “They re­turned a ver­dict of guilty. The com­mon­wealth is very dis­turbed. You’re look­ing at five years and nine months for the death of a child.”

Hol­man had asked Bald­win to sen­tence Wil­liams to eight to 16 years in a state cor­rec­tional in­sti­tu­tion. As­sis­tant Pub­lic De­fender Kent D. Watkins, Wil­liams’ lawyer, had asked for a 48- month min­i­mum term, leav­ing the max­i­mum to Bald­win’s dis­cre­tion.

In a two-day trial over which Bald­win presided, ju­rors had found Wil­liams guilty on June 28 of third-de­gree mur­der, ag­gra­vated as­sault, in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter, pro­hib­ited pos­ses­sion of firearm and two counts each of en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren and reck­lessly en­dan­ger­ing another per­son.

Ma­hanoy City police had charged Wil­liams with killing Doyle on the morn­ing of Jan. 10, 2016, by fall­ing off a couch and smoth­er­ing her.

Bald­win orig­i­nally sen­tenced Wil­liams on Aug. 2 to spend 15 to 30 years in a state cor­rec­tional in­sti­tu­tion for Doyle’s death.

How­ever, on Nov. 21, Bald­win over­turned the guilty ver- dict for third-de­gree mur­der and ag­gra­vated as­sault, rul­ing pros­e­cu­tors had not pro­duced suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to sup­port those charges. He reaf­firmed that de­ci­sion on Wed­nes­day.

“Tak­ing mul­ti­ple sleep­ing med­i­ca­tions while watch­ing chil­dren does not show mal­ice,” the state of mind nec­es­sary for third-de­gree mur­der, Bald­win said.

He also dis­counted pros­e­cu­tors’ con­tention that Wil­liams’ fail­ure to call 911 was ev­i­dence of mal­ice, say­ing there was no ev­i­dence that Doyle could have sur­vived even if the de­fen­dant had sum­moned help.

“There was no ev­i­dence to es­tab­lish that the child could have been saved. They couldn’t show cau­sa­tion,” Bald­win said.

Fi­nally, Bald­win said the fact that Wil­liams was will­ing to plead guilty to third-de­gree mur­der be­fore trial was ir­rel­e­vant be­cause once the court re­jected the plea, pros­e­cu­tors had to prove the ex­is­tence of the crime.

The prison term Bald­win im­posed con­sists of con­sec­u­tive sen­tences of 21 to 48 months for in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter, 24 to 48 months for pro­hib­ited pos­ses­sion of firearm and 12 to 24 months for each of the two counts of en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren.

In ad­di­tion to the prison time, Bald­win also sen­tenced Wil­liams to pay costs, $1,800 resti­tu­tion to the county coro­ner’s of­fice and $1,684.68 resti­tu­tion to the district at­tor­ney’s of­fice, and sub­mit a DNA sam­ple to law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties.

Wil­liams had asked dur­ing the hear­ing that her pay­ments for costs and resti­tu­tion be post­poned un­til af­ter she left prison. Oth­er­wise, she said noth­ing dur­ing or af­ter the hear­ing.

Watkins de­clined to com­ment on the case af­ter the hear­ing.


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