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Tonya McDowell, a 34-year old single mother who was arrested for sending her son to a school outside his home district, has been sent to prison for five years. The homeless mom sent her son to elementary school in Norwalk, Connecticut, instead of Bridgeport, where he was supposed to go. The case is further complicated because McDowell also pleaded guilty to selling drugs.
McDowell was sentenced under the Alford Doctrine, which says that she does not admit guilt, but instead concedes that the state has enough evidence for a conviction.
McDowell used a baby sitter’s address to get her son enrolled in the school, which she felt was the best place for him to be. The case drew national media attention and was similar to the case of Kelly Williams-Bolar, another mother in Ohio who was charged with the same “crime.”
The state has accused McDowell of stealing $15,686 worth of education from the city of Norwalk. She was also convicted of four counts of selling narcotics, which added to her sentence. She pleaded guilty to dealing drugs on February 7.
Darnell Crosland, McDowell’s attorney, says that she accepted the plea even though she is not guilty.
“You shouldn’t be arrested for stealing a free education. It’s just wrong,” he said.
The total sentence was for 12 years in prison, suspended after she serves five years and another five years probation.