Justice and Mia Sardella
Judge Patricia Jenkins sentenced the 20-year-old Drexel Hill woman to 45 days in jail, to be served on weekends, in connection with the death of her newborn son. Sardella had entered a no contest plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Actually, the full sentence was a bit more complicated than that. Jenkins sentenced Sardella to nine months to two years in jail, less one day on the felony count. What it boils down to is that starting next weekend Sardella will report to Delaware County Prison for the next 22 consecutive weekends. She’ll do 45 days, less the two days she has already served. The remainder of the nine months will be served on house arrest, followed by the 15 months of probation. Sardella has been on electronic home monitoring for the bulk of the two years since she was initially charged, ironically the exact date of yesterday’s sentencing.
Jenkins also has one unusual ingredient as part of the sentence. She ordered Sardella to do two years of community service, specifically with a California agency called Project Cuddle, which works with young mothers to reduce cases of baby abandonment.
I’m sure it struck Judge Jenkins as a perfectly just sentence. It seems that way to me, too. And to Mike Galantino, who prosecuted the case. The assistant district attorney indicated after the sentence that it appeared Sardella’s actions were “more reckless than malicious.” Defense attorney Art Donato concurred.
The sentence was announced late yesterday morning. We posted our first story on our Web site around noon.
And I knew what was coming.
I will call it “The Bonfire of the Inanities.”
There are many things about the technology that we are dealing with in the newspaper business that I like. First and foremost, it allows us to deliver news 24 hours a day to our readers. There was a time not all that long ago when we would have been forced to sit here with what has been a very controversial story in this county and listen to TV and radio stations deliver news of the Sardella sentencing. We would not hit the streets with our next print edition until the next morning.
Those days are over. We posted a quick bulletin with the details of the arrest. Then we updated with information on the other aspects of the sentence. And we udpated the story again with a full report from our courthouse reporter.
Our Web site also does something else. It allows us to be much more of an interactive venue. We have always solicited readers’ opinions in print, asking them to write letters to the editor and even phone in their beliefs to Sound Off.
Now readers can post comments to the stories that appear online.
On this story, there have been no shortage of opinions. And people have turned to the Web site to make their feelings known in some very strong, plain language.
Shortly after we posted our first story yesterday, the comments section of the site exploded.
From the beginning of this case, there have been those who have complained that it was treated differently than other cases. They believe the delay in bringing charges offered evidence that there was two different sets of justice dispensed in Delaware County, one for people of means, and one for everyone else.
I don’t think that argument holds water. I still don’t. Mia Sardella initially was charged with first-degree murder in this case. Eventually that charge was dropped. Then a third-degree murder charge was slapped on her. Her plea agreement also saw that charge disappear. Eventually she pleaded no-contest to charges of involuntary manslaughter, which happens to be a felony, abuse of a corpse, and concealing the death of a child.
I have received more phone calls and e-mails connected to this case than just about any story I can remember. As usual, I’m the guy in the middle. Those in Sardella’s corner insist we’ve been unfair in our coverage; those against her believe we also are cowering because of the status of her family.
I am not going to convince those who believe that Mia Sardella got preferential treatment otherwise. They will continue to bombard the Web site with their comments. We will review them and remove those that we feel cross the line. And lots of them do.
Mia Sardella’s sentence strikes me as just about exactly what I expected, very similar to the sentence handed out a few years back to a young woman in Ridley in similar circumstances.
Had this case gone to trial, it likely would have boiled down to a battle of legal experts as to whether or not the baby was alive at the time of birth, or as the prosecution was ready to argue, “that this child was born alive and that he died as a result of asphyxiation.”
It strikes me that Sardella would have had a very good chance of beating these charges if she had gone to trial. But she did not go that route. She entered a plea. In effect, she was admitting that her actions were wrong.
That argument is now moot.
A contrite Sardella appeared before Judge Jenkins and sobbed.
“I will never get over the loss of my child, nor will I ever forgive myself for what I did,” she said.
Clearly there are a lot of people in the county who agree with her.