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Nigerian-American Jessica Tata sentenced to 80 years for death of 1 of 4 kids at her Houston daycare; more sentences ahead

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Nigerian-American Jessica Tata sentenced to 80 years for death of 1 of 4 kids at her Houston daycare; more sentences ahead

USAfrica Special report by Chido Nwangwu.

Twitter.com/Chido247Facebook.com/USAfricaChido n Facebook.com/USAfrica247

USAfrica, Houston: Houston area jurors have sentenced Jessica Tata to 80 years in prison for the death of one of the four children under her daycare service, 16-month-old Elias Castillo. The 24-year-old Jessica will face more trials and sentencing for the other 3 kids who were burnt (or choked by fumes from the  fire) to their premature death during the February 2011 fire at Jessica’s daycare where she left the kids all by themselves, unsupervised. 

Jessica’s sentence on November 20, 2012 shows she will pay a $10,000 fine and serve 30 years before she will considered eligible for parole.

Even as he expressed his concerns for the families of the dead kids, state prosecutor Steve Baldassano noted that “She (Jessica) was being paid to watch these children. She knew better,” Baldassano said. “It’s not the stove. It’s not the refrigerator. It’s not any parents’ fault. It’s nobody’s fault but her own.”

Complicating the matter, a few days after the deaths of the children, Jessica fled to her parents home in Port Harcourt, Nigeria (as first reported here on USAfricaonline.com) — until she was arrested and returned in March 2012 to the U.S by the U.S Marshalls, Interpol and allied security services. She has Nigeria as her country of citizenship, although she was born in the Houston area of the U.S.
After 2 weeks of of the first trial, prosecutor Steve Baldassano made his closing argument by showing again to the jurors surveillance video of Jessica shopping at a nearby Target store just as her home day care facility was on fire with children. The prosecutors argued that Jessica left hot oil on a stove and abandoned the children. He noted to the jurors that “She doesn’t seem to care at all she left those kids home alone…. She’s just hanging out, going to Target.”

In a previous and major contradiction after the fire, she told investigators she was at home when the fire began. But she was not.

She is facing several charges and submissions by the prosecutors which could have possible implications of up to life in prison on one of four counts of “felony murder.” The charges include “recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a child, abandoning a child, endangering a child and causing serious bodily injury to a child by criminal negligence.”

But her high-profile defense attorney Mike DeGeurin told the jurors the fire could have been caused by a malfunctioning refrigerator; a line of argument the prosecutors dismissed as simply “crazy.”

Baldassano made a strong counterpoint when he pointed to the parents of the dead or injured children seated in the courtroom that Jessica’s lawyers were misdirecting the issue of responsibility. “They are trying to blame the stove, the refrigerator. She’s the only person to blame. It’s 100 percent her fault.”

DeGuerin was admitted to the Texas State Bar in 1965, and served as lawyer for religious cult Texas leader in Waco, David Koresh in the wake of Koresh’s fiery showdown with the FBI and the agency known as ATF. DeGuerin served as attorney for David Mark Temple, who was charge with killing his wife (the woman was 8 months pregnant). Another prominent case regarded the real estate multimillionaire Robert Durst, accused of dismembering the body of his 71-year-old neighbor and throwing the pieces in Galveston Bay, near Houston, Texas.

The Tatas’ hiring of DeGuerin is, evidently, a legal line of readiness to deal, without any sentiments, with the fundamentals and technicalities of the case– which previously had four counts of manslaughter, six counts of reckless injury to a child and three counts of abandoning a child under 15 arising from the February 24, 2011 fire at her daycare. There was no murder charges, then.

DeGeurin has conceded his client should never have left the children without anyone. “She should never have left. It was a terrible accident … What it’s not is murder.”
That is the crux of the contentions by the lawyers in the case and the weighty deliberation and conclusion in the hands of the jurors.                                                                                                                 •Dr. Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica and recipient of several journalism and public policy awards, was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn

USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com (characterized by The New York Times as the most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks) established May 1992, our first edition of USAfrica magazine was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994; CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; www.PhotoWorks.TV in 2005. wireless: 832-45-CHIDO (24436). Office: 713-270-5500. e-mail: USAfrica247@USAfricaonline.com
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USAfrica: Ikemba ODUMEGWU OJUKWU’s farewell in Aba, today February 28, 2012, reflected a fitting tribute, historically meaningful celebration, proper regard and deserving appreciation of the greatest Igbo, in my opinion, to have ever lived (like him or hate him).

I SALUTE Aba (aka Enyimba city), the robust and fearless town I was born, bred and raised, for giving the Ikemba, our Ochiagha, Gburugburu, Oka oburu uzo, dike na ndu ma n’onwu, mgbadike anyi, a hero’s farewell.

To the Ikemba, may your valiant soul rest in peace and dignity.

We will, and I, Chido Nwangwu, will never forget to continue to tell my generation and the next about your towering courage through tempest and thunder; through sorrow, pain, tears, blood…. •Dr. Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; and recipient of several journalism and public policy awards, was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn.

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• For seasoned insights and breaking news on these issues, log on to USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica powered e-groups including Nigeria360 at yahoogroups and USAfrica at googlegroups. Follow us at Facebook.com/USAfricaChido and Twitter.com/Chido247

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