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Archive for Saturday, August 9, 2003

Breast-feeding driver not guilty of endangering child

August 9, 2003

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— A woman who nursed her infant while driving 65 mph on the Ohio Turnpike was found not guilty Friday of child endangerment but convicted of three other charges.

Catherine Nicole Donkers, 29, was found guilty of violating child-restraint laws, driving without a valid driver's license and fleeing police.

She said her husband, Brad Lee Barnhill, ordered her by cell phone to breast-feed the baby while she drove from Pennsylvania to Michigan in May.

Police stopped Donkers after a trucker called 911 to report he had seen a woman driver holding a baby on her lap. Donkers refused to pull over for three miles as a trooper pursued her.

Prosecutors recommended Donkers be sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine instead of the maximum one year in jail and $2,000. All four charges are misdemeanors. The child-restraint charge carries a fine of up to $100.

Donkers had faced up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Judge Donald Martell said he would postpone sentencing to investigate Donkers "because I feel I need to know more about you." He did not set a sentencing date.

Donkers, who represented herself, said she did nothing wrong and was following her husband's orders. The couple belong to the First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty, which has a history of challenging the government.

"We are people who do not shirk from facing the consequences of our actions. I pray that this court respects my faith," she said in closing arguments.

Donkers argued that as a Michigan resident, she was entitled under that state's child restraint law to breast-feed while driving, even though she was driving in Ohio.

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