Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, unlike Tayna McDowell, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison for enrolling her son in a school district using a fraudulent address. So the meme goes. A bit of digging ads some context.
The 33-year-old woman, who is facing larceny charges for enrolling her son in Norwalk public schools while living in Bridgeport, was alone as she stood handcuffed before Judge Howard Owens to face multiple drug charges. Her entourage and her lawyer, who escorted her to court in Norwalk and Stamford, were absent.
Police said McDowell sold crack cocaine and marijuana to an undercover police officer on two occasions outside her Dover Street home. They said she even interrupted her 6-year-old son’s birthday to sell the drugs. She was arrested in court Monday morning.
That McDowell was selling drugs outside of a school is relevant, but of course outrage has no time for context.
Several weeks later, she was arrested for selling drugs to Norwalk undercover officers on five occasions in Norwalk and Bridgeport.
When she was picked up on the drug charges, police found her in front of Brookside Elementary School holding 30 small bags of marijuana and 23 small bags of crack cocaine, prosecutor Tiffany Lockshier said during her sentencing hearing.
At the sentencing hearing, here is what the judge said:
[Judge] Iannotti retorted Tuesday that the Norwalk case had nothing to do with why McDowell was before him.
“This case is about the convictions for the sale of narcotics to an undercover police officer,” the judge said. “I think you understand that because that is really the essence of what has gotten you into the predicament you find yourself today.”
On the two counts of sale of narcotics, the judge then sentenced her to 12 years, suspended after she serves five years and followed by five years probation.
The sentence is to run concurrently with a five-year sentence she received in the Norwalk case.
McDowell pled guilty to the larceny charges involving lying about her address as part of package deal with prosecutors.
There were three cases pending against McDowell:
- S20N-CR11-0128870-S (larceny)
- F02B-CR11-0258104-S (sale of illegal drugs)
- F02B-CR11-0258105-S (sale of illegal drugs)
McDowell pled guilty to all three cases, and received the following:
- Sentenced: 12 Years Jail, Execution Suspended After 5 Years, Probation 5 Years
While the Twitter outrage mob can be forgiven for not bothering to do any research, you’d expect better of Snopes.
Snopes rates as true this claim, “Was a Woman Sentenced to Five Years for Sending Her Son to a Better School?”
Snopes used to be an official fact-checking partner of Facebook’s. Under this program, a Facebook page could be suspended if Snopes concluded that the page had posted fake news.
Snopes leaves out this relevant context of the prison sentence:
The Bridgeport mother charged with illegally enrolling her son in a Norwalk school has agreed to a plea deal. Tanya McDowell was arrested last year on larceny charges for using a false address to send her son to Brookside Elementary.
She was later arrested on drug charges in Bridgeport and Norwalk.
Her lawyer tells News 12 Connecticut that McDowell, who was facing 40 years, agreed to a plea deal and will spend five years in prison to cover all the charges.
Read that last paragraph again, “Her lawyer tells News 12 Connecticut that McDowell, who was facing 40 years, agreed to a plea deal and will spend five years in prison to cover all the charges.”
During the sentencing hearing, the judge said:
“This case is about the convictions for the sale of narcotics to an undercover police officer,” the judge said. “I think you understand that because that is really the essence of what has gotten you into the predicament you find yourself today.” On the two counts of sale of narcotics, the judge then sentenced her to 12 years, suspended after she serves five years and followed by five years probation.
Tanya McDowell was not sentenced to prison for 5 years for lying about her address. She was sentenced to five years in prison as part of a package deal involving her lying about living in a school district and also being a drug dealer.
Non-lawyers can be forgiven for not knowing that the drug charges greatly raised any potential sentence in the larceny case. Snopes should have some lawyers fact-check their articles for them, at least when the legal system is involved.
P.S. In a case actually similar to Felicity Huffman’s, the woman was sentenced to 10 days in county jail.
She was sentenced last week to 10 days in county jail and put on three years of probation. She will also be required to perform community service, the Beacon Journal reported.
UPDATE: In response to my reporting, Snopes has issued this following update:
[UPDATE 09/19/19]: This story has been updated and returned to a “mixture” rating to better reflect the claim that McDowell was sentenced to 5 years in the school larceny case, but that the sentence included drug and prostitution charges, as well.
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