Truant mom's appeal denied

A Carson City woman's effort to appeal a November conviction for failing to prevent her child's truancy was denied in a district courtroom Friday.

Mary Jo Bailey, 41, will be forced to serve two days in jail, a justice court sentence that was delayed pending the outcome of Friday's hearing.

Based on evidence heard at the original trial, Justice of the Peace Robey Willis found Bailey was negligent in allowing her then-13-year-old daughter to accrue 103 absences.

In the appeal, defense attorney Chet Kafchinski said the law under which Bailey was convicted was unconstitutional and asked Judge Michael Fondi to throw it out. Fondi denied his request and upheld the conviction.

"The child testified that there was nothing her mother could do to make her attend school," Kafchinski argued. "There's no showing of criminal intent."

Under Nevada law, one of the criteria for all criminal prosecutions is to prove that the accused had knowingly, negligently or intentionally violated the law. Kafchinski said the way the truancy law is written, there is no "mental" standard to prove, therefore the law is corrupt.

Prosecutor Jason Woodbury, who also tried the original case, argued that a clause in the statute implies a standard of knowledge in the crime. For Willis to find Bailey guilty, prosecutors had to prove she had custody of the child, that she received notice of truancy and that she failed to prevent further truancy.

"She had knowledge her daughter was not attending school," he said, referring to a notice of truancy sent to her.

Kafchinski argued, however, "There is no proof whatsoever that the truancy continued after she received notice. The truancy occurred between fall 1997 and spring 1998.

Kafchinksi said he will have to confer with Bailey to decide whether to pursue a Nevada Supreme Court appeal. She was not present for Friday's hearing. Bailey will likely have to serve her sentence once Willis signs an order.

After the hearing, Woodbury said since the allegations came forth, Bailey's daughter has shown little improvement in attendance. There reportedly are several habitual truants in the Carson City school system.

"We could prosecute a lot more, but our first option is to work with these people," he said. "This was an extreme case.

"I think the ruling shows that parents can't just throw their hands up in the air and say, 'There's nothing I can do.'"


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