San Mateo County authorities are in the middle of negotiations with a San Mateo mom who allegedly tied up her 17-year-old daughter in 2009 and subjected her to a number of gruesome actions, including allegedly punching her repeatedly, holding a pillow over her face, and attempting to force-feed her dish soap.
Shawnie Benedetti, 46, was put through a trial in early 2010 for her actions against her then-teenaged daughter, but the conviction was overturned due to a mistake regarding statements made to the jury, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told Patch on Friday.
Wagstaffe explained, Benedetti alleged that she was trying to prevent her daughter - who she claimed she thought was suicidal - from harming herself, and that is why she tied her up, using both duct tape and zip-ties. During the trial, the jury was allegedly led to believe that was not a valid defense for her actions, but Wagstaffe said, it actually can be taken into consideration, by law, though he thinks the excuse "makes no sense, whatsoever."
Because of the mistaken statement made to the jury, though, the results of the trial - in which Benedetti was found guilty of inflicting corporal injury on a child, among other charges - were reversed.
Now, Wagstaffe says, the District Attorney's Office is in talks with Benedetti and her lawyer over whether a new trial should be scheduled for next month, or whether Benedetti will accept a plea deal that Wagstaffe's office has offered her.
Wagstaffe said, though he absolutely believes Benedetti needs to pay for her actions against her daughter, several parties involved with the case are worried another trial would be too much for her daughter.
"We are very concerned for this young woman and making sure she doesn't have to go through a painful, emotional trial again," Wagstaffe told Patch. "It was very hard for her to be the sole witness in the previous trial, to stand up there and talk about this and have to see her mother convicted of crimes."
Wagstaffe said he is hopeful the mother will accept the terms of the plea deal - the details of which cannot be disclosed at this time - so that everyone in the family can put the ordeal behind them.
"I'm confident it will resolve," he said. "This new deal is better than what she had last time [after her trial]."
Wagstaffe said, no matter what, Benedetti needs to pay for her actions, and other parents out there need to know the way she disciplined her daughter is unacceptable.
"We certainly think she went way beyond discipline," Wagstaffe said. "She was angry and upset at the daughter, and as a society and a community we cannot allow this type of parenting to occur."
Wagstaffe said the argument was allegedly over a house party the daughter held when the mother wasn't home, and an unpaid cellphone bill, but that the mother and daughter also had a difficult relationship between them in general as well, with the daughter often acting angry and rebellious toward Benedetti.
The Examiner's article claims Benedetti even enlisted the help of a family friend to tie her daughter up, and that the daughter told authorities while she was bound, she was "punched repeatedly," had a pillow held over her face to muffle her screams, and was finally force-fed a mixture of dish soap and water.
The article claims prosecutors have stated that the daughter had "numerous marks on her body" when she went to the police to report the incident.
"There are times when parents cross the boundaries as to what society can accept, and we then need to punish them," Wagstaffe said about the mother's actions. "We do think [Benedetti's actions] rose to the level of unacceptable behavior, and she needs to pay the price as such."
Wagstaffe said Benedetti is expected to appear in court again on Sept. 5 to indicate whether or not she wishes to accept the plea deal she has been offered. If she doesn't accept it, he said a new trial will begin on or around Sept. 10.
Stay up-to-date on the latest police and crime news for San Mateo - follow us! And don't forget to sign up for our daily e-newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox each morning.