JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A woman who pleaded guilty to burning a 3-year-old girl's hand with scalding water received no jail time, and now documents show the judge cited remorse as one of the reasons why.
That fact is still hard for the child's mother to accept.
"She showed care, but still, it's still the fact remains that my child was burned," said Nicovia Melton, 3-year-old Nia'Miah's mother.
Melton and the state attorneys office are now fighting to overturn what they believe was an unfair sentence.
Judge Suzanne Bass sentenced 30-year-old Nicole Brown to one year of community supervision, along with probation, community service and other penalties, but no jail time. Guidelines suggested a minimum sentence of five years in prison.
The memories of the court dates after Nia'Miah's hand was burned are still fresh for Melton, including emotion from her ex-girlfriend Brown.
"I've never seen her cry that hard before, but she cried real hard and my heart melted when she did it," Melton said. "But still, I still, my baby got burned."
That emotion was a big factor in Bass decision to deviate from sentencing guidelines.
In the transcript of that sentencing, Bass said, "The defendant is remorseful for the child's injury, as it happened under her supervision. Having observed her demeanor, the court perceives defendant's remorse as genuine."
Bass cited remorse as a reason for a lighter sentence.
Attorney Randy Reep, who is not connected to the case, said she can legally do so.
"There are considerations provided for in the statute that allow a deviation from the minimum," Reep said. "So the minimum is the minimum so long as there aren't factors for the judge to consider to deviate from."
Other factors Bass cited in sentencing include the way Brown (pictured, left) committed the crime. Bass said "the offense (was) not a result of planning or careful forethought, it was isolated." Bass also said that Brown had no prior criminal record.
That's why Reep believes an appeal may be hard to win.
"The way I read the transcripts, I don't think you're going to find that because while she says other things, she says she found factors in comport with the statute that would allow for that deviation," Reep said.
This isn't the first time a decision Bass made has been questioned. Earlier this year she allowed a woman found guilty of attempted murder out on bond until sentencing. And last month she recused herself as judge of the Michael Dunn case after the defense alleged bias.
Whether the appeal is granted or not, Melton said she will continue to fight for her daughter and a sentence she believes is fair.
"Yeah I have to do something because this is my child," Melton said. "If it happened to her daughter, she would do the same thing. She would push and push and push for the same thing."
The appeals process could take about a year.
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