Jury Back in Drunken Breastfeeder case … Oh, Wait, She Didn’t Get a Jury

As promised, here is an update on Stacey Anvarinia, the North Dakota women who pled guilty to child neglect for allegedly breastfeeding her six-week-old daughter while drunk.  For more on what appears to be a startling lack of evidence, see my post here. My suspicion that Anvarinia pled guilty as part of a deal for a lighter sentence and return of her baby seems to have been spot on.

According to the Grand Forks Herald, rather than the maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, Anvarinia was sentenced today to six months which she can serve in a substance abuse treatment facility.  No news story published before today has mentioned whether Anvarinia had custody of her infant daughter since the arrest. In my previous blog post, I wondered whether she might have waived her right to trial in order to get her child returned to her.  The Grand Forks Herald reports that at Anvarinia’s sentencing she said:

“I’m very sorry for what I did, and I know it was wrong,” 26-year-old Stacey Anvarinia told the judge. “And I would like to continue working toward getting my daughter back.

So Anvarinia does not currently have her daughter and does not appear to know when she will regain custody of her. She was arrested in this case on February 13, 2009. As of today’s sentencing then, she has been without her daughter for nearly six months and can now, it appears, look forward to at least another six months without her.

The brief news released today makes no mention of Delbert Harrison, the man Anvarinia says was beating her when she called police for help. As of last week, he had not been arrested or charged. Anvarinia’s sentence for calling for help is a year without custody of her daughter, six months of which will be in some sort of detention.

Even if Anvarinia was intoxicated when police arrived – something for which there is apparently no evidence other then the police shock at her breastfeeding in their presence – is the loss of custody for a year (or more) and detention for six months an appropriate sentence? If you were a breastfeeding mother in need of help, how willing would you be to call the police? You might find yourself nursing an infant one minute, and regaining custody of a toddler a year later.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: According to the New York Times:

Clapp sentenced Anvarinia to 18 months in jail with all but six months suspended and said Anvarinia could get credit for chemical dependency treatment.

So Anvarinia’s sentence is more severe than I reported above. Many thanks to Cate Nelson for the heads-up on this.