(WINTER HAVEN, Fla.) — The lawyer of a Florida mother who has been ordered not to have children during her 13-year probation sentence is having second thoughts about the plea deal.
“I’ve been doing this for 32 years now and I, quite frankly, have never researched that particular issue, but my gut is telling me you can’t do that,” attorney Nathaniel White told ABC News Monday. “This isn’t something that happens every day. It’s a very unusual situation.”
The demand shocked both the woman and her attorney, who failed to challenge the judge’s request in court Friday but now says he doubts its legality.
Kimberly Lightsey, 30, was facing four counts of child abuse for an incident on Halloween 2011 when she left her four children, ages 2 to 11 at the time, at a hotel while she went out “partying,” her attorney said.
She left her children with another hotel patron named Simone who also had children. Lightsey said the woman had agreed to watch the kids.
Several hours later, Simone texted Lightsey to find out her room number.
“Apparently, Simone had been doing a little partying of her own and forgot where Ms. Lightsey’s room was,” White said. “In the meantime, one of the children who has to use a wheelchair because of physical limitations he has, he had gotten out into the hallway and managed to turn himself over in the wheelchair, so he’s out there hollering.”
Authorities were called and Lightsey was eventually charged with four counts of felony child abuse. She was convicted on all counts.
Prosecutors asked for a 32-month jail sentence in court, but Judge Ernest Jones Jr. had another idea.
At Lightsey’s Friday sentencing, the judge proposed two years of house arrest and 13 years of probation, with the condition that she agree not to have any more children during that time.
“I admit that when he threw that out there about no kids, that’s when I was a little stunned,” White said. “I just sat there and I looked at the judge without saying anything because at that point I don’t want to blow it because the judge hadn’t definitely decided yet what he was going to do.”
White said that on the one hand, he was worried that if he spoke up, the judge might get irritated and send Lightsey to jail.
“On the other hand, my mind was screaming, ‘I don’t think this is legal,'” he said. “‘I don’t think you can do that, judge.'”
“The judge looks over at my client and says, ‘Well, what do you think? Or you don’t like that?'” White recalled.
“She had turned around and looked at the back of the courtroom where her boyfriend was,” White said. “And she said something like, ‘My boyfriend and I were thinking once things settle down of maybe having a child.'”
White said Jones answered with, “Well, you’ve already got four.”
White added, “I think Jones’ heart was in the right place. I’m not going to say that it’s necessarily a bad thing for this woman to be told to have no more kids because she’s got her hands full. But I don’t think he could have legally prevented that.”
The judge was not available to comment Monday. The American Civil Liberties Union said it is looking into the matter.
Lightsey accepted the condition. However, after having time to think, White said he has a number of concerns about the edict.
“What happens if she gets herself pregnant?” White wondered. “Oh, my God, what a dilemma that is.”
He said he plans to sit down with his client and encourage her to appeal the order.
The Florida judge’s condition was not the first time this year a judge has made an unusually personal demand.
In February, a Florida judge ordered a man to take his wife out to dinner and bowling, complete with flowers. The sentence came after the couple had a physical altercation when the husband forgot the wife’s birthday.
And in Oklahoma, in November, a judge sentenced a teen offender to attend church as part of his probation arrangement.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brian Stelter, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN Newswire