In a heartbreaking story, a thirty-four-year-old Colorado woman, Shannon Johnson, was sentenced to ten years in prison on Friday for playing Cafe World on Facebook as her thirteen-month-old son, Joseph, drowned in a bathtub. Johnson had pleaded guilty in March to negligently causing the death of her son.
District Judge Thomas Quammen told a crying Johnson that he didn't believe she had intentionally killed her son, but that it was a crime nonetheless. He said, "You left this little boy in a bathtub so you could entertain yourself on the computer by playing games. And you left that thirteen-month-old human being, little Joseph, incredibly for those reasons."
On September 20 of last year, Johnson left Joseph to his own devices in the bathtub as she went off to play Cafe World on Facebook. When she returned to check on her son, he was sideways and face-down in the water. Johnson apparently told police that her son "wanted to be left alone," that he was a very "independent baby," and that she didn't want him to get a reputation as a "mama's boy." She also revealed that she had been leaving the boy alone in the tub for weeks, and that on the day he died the water level had been too high.
Another damning aspect of the case was the fact that the child had suffered a seizure while being babysat by his grandmother a month before his death. So there's no doubt that Ms. Johnson was grossly negligent and there have to be repercussions. But at the same time, since the death appeared to be accidental, you have to think that the tragedy itself would be punishment enough.