Jarrett Maupin, an Arizona Congressional candidate, reverend and community advocate, is taking some of the credit for Shanesha Taylor's money-for-freedom deal with prosecutors.
A controversial figure, Maupin -- president of the Phoenix-based Progressive Christian Coalition -- nevertheless was seen to be working closely in the highly publicized criminal case of the underemployed mom who left her kids in a car while at a job interview. While admitting Taylor made a mistake, Maupin says he's pleased at how well things turned out.
Maupin's hoping to win a seat in Arizona's Congressional District 7.
He says he introduced Benjamin Taylor to Montgomery at Governor Jan Brewer's annual prayer breakfast on April 10, and claims he urged Montgomery to meet with them about the Shanesha Taylor case.
At that subsequent meeting, Maupin says he proposed that the prosecution agency use the tens of thousands pouring into a YouCaring.com fundraiser page for Taylor as leverage in her child-abuse case, he says.
"I said, 'Bill, look, she's got the money -- why don't we put it aside," Maupin says, adding that he talked prosecutors down from 56 weeks of parenting classes to 26 weeks.
News media outlets reported on April 16 that Montgomery wasn't swayed by the names of 12,000 online supporters of Shanesha Taylor dropped off at his office by Maupin and Benjamin Taylor. Yet it's clear Montgomery's office faced a publicity challenge over the case, which had become fodder for various blogs and news sites across the country not in small part due to Taylor's compelling, tearful mugshot. The New York Times ran a high-profile article on Taylor on June 21 that included graphic-novel-type art to represent her troubles.
Last week, Montgomery announced a deal in which Taylor would not be prosecuted in return for putting $30,000 into trust funds for the education of her three children, and establishing another fund for childcare.
Montgomery acknowledge the deal was "unique" and takes "all the circumstances presented" into account.
Shanesha Taylor raised $114,000, according to her YouCaring site. Prosecutors knew that, and obviously never would have asked the impoverished Air Force veteran to cough up $30,000-plus if it wasn't for all that dough.
If Taylor fails to live up to the deal, Montgomery warns, she could be on the hook for criminal charges.
Although Montgomery claims his office "will not engage in poll-taking or assess what community outcry or support a particular defendant might have, Maupin says that's exactly what Montgomery did.
With lawyer Benjamin Taylor, "we got her off and we got Bill Montgomery to roll over," Maupin says, calling the move Montgomery's "social-justice moment."
Jerry Cobb, Montgomery's spokesman, says he cannot confirm Maupin's story of who came up with the idea for the deal.
Shanesha Taylor did not respond to a request for comment. According to the NY Times article, she now lives with the father of her three children, Antoine Duncan.
The only question now is when she'll be able to live with her kids full-time again. News reports say they've been placed with "family."
Her lawyer, Benjamin Taylor, would only comment on-the-record that Shanesha Taylor's children were under state supervision, they're being treated well, and that they are scheduled to attend a hearing with the state Department of Child Safety at the end of August.
"We believe it's fair," Benjamin Taylor says of the plea deal.
So does Maupin, though he doesn't want the public to get the impression that Taylor would not have spent the money on her children without the deal. After spending time with her, Maupin's convinced that "she'll do all right."
"This was an exercise in overzealous prosecution," he says, and the resolution was "a common sense call."
Shanesha Taylor may have screwed up, Maupin says, but he points out that her kids, who spent 45 minutes in a heated Dodge Durango as their mom attended her job interview, weren't harmed by the experience.
"Did she need to go to jail and be a felon? No," he says.
UPDATE: Shanesha Taylor got back to us today with a one-sentence email we'll share with you: "Yes I have weekend at home visits with my children."
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