By Ray Stern
Blair Parker has escaped the 30-year minimum mandatory sentence his wife received last year for starving their three children on a strict vegan diet.
The jury in Parker's case returned a verdict of two counts of negligent child abuse and one count of reckless child abuse in the multi-week trial that wrapped up Thursday. His sentencing is set for August 14 before Maricopa County Superior Court Roland Steinle.
Unlike his wife, Parker wasn't found guilty of "intentionally or knowingly" starving the kids. That would have triggered the trio of 10-year mandatory, consecutive sentences Parker's wife, Kimu, got last year.
Steinle could give Blair Parker nothing but a term of probation. But even if the judge slaps Parker with the maximum for this conviction -- 16 years and three months in prison -- it sure beats three decades behind bars.
Parker broke out in tears of "tremendous relief" when the verdict was read, says his attorney, Thomas Glow of the Maricopa County Legal Advocate's Office.
"He was very grateful," Glow says. "It's coming a lot closer to justice in Mr. Parker's case than in Mrs. Parker's."
Glow says he can't fully explain why this jury found Parker guilty of lesser offenses than Kimu's jury did, since the evidence was essentially the same in both trials. But it's clear the jury struggled more in this case before rendering their decision: The jury in Kimu's case returned their harsh verdict in 95 minutes on April 9, 2007. But following Monday afternoon's closing arguments, Blair's jury deliberated for two full days.
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Without question, the Parkers should have fed their kids more, even if it was just vegan food, which doesn't include any meat, dairy or eggs. The Parkers apparently thought their kids would be far healthier on the low-cal vegan diet than kids who consumed fatty junk food and soda pop, and they were wrong--their youngest child, Zion, weighed only 13 pounds at age 3 when she was rushed to the hospital in 2005 because of seizures.
On the other hand, the facts of both trials showed the Parkers loved their children, who--except for their small, malnourished bodies--were found by neighbors and medical staff to be bright and well-educated.