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Bellevue couple gets 1-year suspended sentence for starving their baby

Brittainy Labberton (front right) walks out out of a King County Superior Court room with her attorney, Tomackie Kim (left). At rear is her husband, Samuel, with his attorney Lei Young (right). - Kevin Opsahl photo
Brittainy Labberton (front right) walks out out of a King County Superior Court room with her attorney, Tomackie Kim (left). At rear is her husband, Samuel, with his attorney Lei Young (right).
— image credit: Kevin Opsahl photo

Rocking her pregnant belly back and forth and dabbing her tears with a tissue, Brittainy Labberton said she wished she had not been so careless toward her young one as she stood before a King County Superior Court judge on Sept. 3.

The 21-year-old woman and her husband, Samuel Labberton, 25, were both given a 1-year suspended sentence and 2 years probation for starving their second daughter during infancy in fear she would become “fat.” The homeless Bellevue couple had pleaded guilty in January.

The charges of third-degree criminal mistreatment came after that daughter, born in August 2008, only gained one pound in the first two months of life.

Their third child is due any day now.

Prosecutors said Child Protective Services (CPS) took their child away from the couple in late 2008 after social workers determined the child was severely underweight for her age. CPS also took away their oldest daughter, age 2, after Brittainy threatened to kill her.

Sam chose not to make a statement to the court, but when Brittainy was ask by the Superior Court Judge Jeffery Ramsdell if she had anything to say, she said, “I will comply with anything the court asks of me. ... I just wish this whole thing never would have happened. I wish I had known better."

The couple did not speak to reporters and left the courtroom – with their attorneys – holding hands.

Under a suspended sentence, the court suspends the passing of a sentence – 1-year in jail – and releases the offenders on the condition of the probation order. Ramsdell’s order states that the couple must comply with mental-health treatment and have no unsupervised contact with any of their children without the approval of a dependency court.

The Labbertons have to report the newborn's birth to state welfare officials within 72-hours after it takes place.

They will be allowed to keep the child, but they will be watched under a very close eye. Ramsdell ordered them to submit quarterly reports on the treatment of their new child to the King County Prosecutor’s office and CPS.

Ramsdell said that “any child would be at risk under these circumstances,” and he believed a no-contact order should be issued to the couple. It will be taken up in dependency court, where parenting plans and custody issues are normally handled.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sean O’Donnell reprised his sentencing request again on Sept. 3 to issue a no-contact order. At another hearing, O’Donnell wanted to have the unborn child be taken away from them immediately after birth, calling the mother’s pregnancy “a train wreck” waiting to happen, according to The Seattle Times.

Brittainy was admitted to the hospital in the summer and failed to eat enough to provide good nourishment for the unborn child, he said.

“I don’t think the risk is mitigating just by passage of time,” O’Donnell told the court at sentencing. “There is no greater responsibility, your honor, than being a parent. The defendants present a danger ... we need to give the defendants time to show the court that they can get their act together. ... CPS is going to have their work cut out for them.”

In defense, Brittainy Labberton’s attorney Tomackie Kim told the judge that a no-contact order is “unlawful.” The mother “has shown an intent to get her children back,” Kim said, and she has exhibited signs of “loving” behavior recently.

On Aug. 30, Kim argued that her client’s sentencing should be delayed at least a month and receive a complete mental-health evaluation before the court decides her sentence, according to The Seattle Times. Ramsdell denied the motion and also ordered that Labberton's husband, Samuel, be sentenced Friday.

Samuel Labberton wanted to have his sentence delayed because he believes his defense attorney, Lei Young, talked him into signing the plea agreement, and did not tell him it would keep him from visiting his children, according to The Times. Ramsdell told Young she could stay on the case.

According to the charging documents, CPS found the couple giving the infant a baby bottle with traces of laxatives after the foster family received a bottle that “smelled funny” in January 2009. Brittainy, who suffers from postpartum depression, admitted to feeding the baby the special bottle during supervised visits. Now, the couple can only see the child twice a week.

Bellevue Police were only first notified of the parent’s problems in May 2009, several months after the children were removed from the Labbertons.

Bellevue police Detective Ellen Inman said it was the second child’s foster mother who came forward and notified authorities of the mistreatment.

Samuel told police he was not responsible for picking up the slack because he had to work a graveyard shift and sleep during the day to support the family, according to charging papers in a Seattle P-I report.

Bellevue Police Detective Ellen Inman told the court at sentencing that neither Samuel nor Brittainy showed “any accountability ... or remorse” when asked about the mistreatment of their child during the investigation. When asked if there was anything they would change about the situation, Sam said, “he would change nothing,” according to Inman.

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