Six years ago Antonio Balta, a then-27-year-old horse groomer working at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, left his 9-month-old daughter, Veronika, in the car as he waited inside for his girlfriend to get off work. It was mid-March and the temperature was in the low 70s. He went out to check on her a few times. When he checked on her at the end of the day, he found Veronika with her eyes were rolled back in her head. Her body was limp. When he lifted her up, a thick, milky substance seeped from the baby's mouth.
Balta, a native of Peru, pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Since then,
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concerned citizens from across the country have reached out to Balta. Joe Gibbons, the State Representative from Hallandale passed a bill that sets limits on how parents in Balta's situation can be punished. (If the bill passed before Balta's crime, he would already be out of prison.)
A few advocates, like D.N. Sutton, an 89-year-old poet living in California, have taken to writing to Florida politicians, including Governor Charlie Crist, asking them to pardon Balta.
This is a copy of the letter Sutton recently sent Governor Crist:
The Honorable Charlie Crist, Governor
Plaza Level 05, The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0810
Dear Governor Crist:
In this time of financial difficulties, wouldn't it be impressive to the people of Florida if you could save the state up to a million dollars and at the same time correct an injustice?
I respectfully bring to your attention the case of Antonio Balta, who has already served six years of an overly severe 20 year sentence for the accidental death of his child in a car. Throughout our country other fathers in similar cases have been given a much lighter sentence, probation or not charged at all.
It is my understanding that you, with the support of your Cabinet, have the authority to make his earlier release possible. Since Mr. Balta is a model prisoner and a non-criminal individual, perhaps this request can be honored.
D. N. Sutton
Citizens Conscience Calls