Judge, ‘Feeling Nice,’ Gives Single Mother Community Service Instead of County Jail

By Zoey Hou 

FRESNO, CA– A judge here, who said she was “feeling nice,” sentenced a woman with a three year-old child whose father recently died to community service and modified probation instead of the recommended in custody jail time this week in Fresno County Superior Court.  

On May 26 Megan Bell admitted to violating her probation order in another case which was dismissed in light of her admission, and was therefore continued to Wednesday’s date for sentencing. 

The prosecution had recommended a probation remand and 200 days in custody as the new sentence. 

Judge Francine Zepeda said the offense was a misdemeanor grant of probation from more than two years ago. She told the defendant, “Ms. Bell, you haven’t done very much these two years have you?”

Defense Attorney Joshua Fowler spoke on Bell’s behalf, saying “she has completed three days of a batterers program and is additionally living with her mother in San Joaquin County to gain some stability…I know there are potentially some outstanding community service, but my client is prepared to do that.” 

Furthermore he requested the court to monitor her progress in the batterer intervention program as well as her requirements for probation. 

“Ms. Bell is in a more stable position at this time. She is a single parent of a three-year-old child…(her) father passed away this February,” said Fowler, who argued that rehabilitation will be better for her.

He requested that there should be an implementation of additional safety measures in order to keep Bell accountable. 

Deputy District Attorney David Zimmerman submitted to the probation recommendation suggested by defense; he agreed that “the defendant should be held accountable for taking up the new matter.”

Judge Zepeda stated that she would not like for this case to continue for sentencing as it would lead to a more complicated situation, noting, “I think I scared her enough to enroll in the program. If there’s another violation then I will let her deal with that if the time comes to it.” 

The judge directed to defendant Bell that “I’m not going to give you custody time and I’m going to give you community service. But the next judge might not be so understanding. I’m feeling nice this week.” 

Zepeda will sentence Bell to 21 days, and will reinstate remote probation in lieu of jail time with a new expiration date of March 24, 2023. Additionally, she gave Bell 50 hours of community service work to be completed before her new probation date expires.

“You can go to Stockton or any nonprofit that works for you. So get a placement and do that. I think that will allow you to care for your son and get everything together,” finished Judge Zepeda. 

About The Author

Zoey Hou is a bay area native pursuing English and International Relations at UC Davis. She strongly advocates for criminal justice transparency and institutional change.

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