PULASKI COUNTY, Va. - The Court of Appeals of Virginia overturned one of the convictions of Ashley White on Tuesday, according to the majority opinion published by Judge William G. Petty on Tuesday.
White was convicted of two accounts of Class 6 felony child abuse and neglect, as well as one count of Class 4 felony child abuse and neglect that caused or permitted the 2015 death of her 5-year-old son, Noah Thomas, according to the opinion.
White only appealed the more serious Class 4 felony charge.
On July 12, 2016, White was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but 23 months of that sentence suspended. White was also given credit for time served. She was released from the New River Valley Regional Jail on Dec. 28, 2016.
On Tuesday, although Petty admitted in his opinion that this is a hard case, he concluded that, "It would not benefit the general good of the community to expand Code § 18.2-371.1’s requirement of “willful” conduct to include a parent’s failure to protect a child from an undiscovered and unknown danger."
Petty elaborated, "Simply put, we conclude that the General Assembly, by requiring proof of a willful act or omission, intended a much higher mens rea than the evidence establishes in this case."
Because the court found the evidence presented was insufficient to support the element of a willful act or willful omission, Petty explained in the opinion that the court does not need to address specifically whether the evidence was sufficient to show that White's failure to supervise caused or permitted her son's death.
This ruling reverses White's conviction, dismisses the indictment and remands the case to trial court for entry of a final sentencing, according to the opinion.
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