A Washington, D.C., judge sentenced a Baltimore County day care owner who shot her husband, an ex-Baltimore Police officer accused of sexually abusing children, to four years in prison on assault and firearm charges.
Shanteari Weems, 50, pleaded guilty in November to aggravated assault and carrying a pistol without a license.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Michael O’Keefe sentenced Weems to four years in prison on Friday, calling the prosecution’s recommendation of two years too lenient. Weems’ sentence includes two years of probation, mandatory therapy and counseling, and requires that she register as a gun offender.
“We have to let the court system, the justice system do its job. We can’t say, ‘Oh yeah, he was a child molester, he deserved what he got,’” O’Keefe said. “We can’t send that message to the community.”
Weems was indicted in October on charges of aggravated assault, firearm possession in a crime of violence, carrying a pistol without a license, and resisting arrest.
She traveled to D.C. and shot her husband, James S. Weems Jr., on July 21 at what was then called the Mandarin Oriental Hotel because she believed he had molested children at her Owings Mills day care, charging documents said.
She shot him twice, once in the neck and once in the leg, said her defense attorney, Tony Garcia. Prosecutors said her husband now uses a walker after undergoing surgery on his leg.
Investigators found a notebook in the hotel room with handwritten messages that read “I’m going to shoot” him “but not kill him” and “I want these kids to get justice,” according to court filings. Police also found shell casings and two firearms while executing a search warrant at the hotel, now called the Salamander.
“I wish I would have done things differently and allowed the people’s system to handle the situation,” Shanteari Weems said in court Friday.
She said she opened her day care after a career as a correctional officer, hoping to influence children so they could avoid incarceration.
“I bear so much guilt that the person I chose to love and trust turned out to be the one the kids needed protection from,” she said of her husband. “However, I know that doesn’t justify my actions and I shouldn’t have taken matters into my own hands. I was wrong and I take full accountability for my actions.”
James Weems worked at his wife’s day care for four years, including two years as a bus driver, according to Baltimore County prosecutor Zarena Sita.
Prosecutors, who requested two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release, argued Friday that Shanteari Weems already had learned of allegations against her husband on July 18, days before she came to his hotel and shot him following an argument.
Garcia said on the day of the shooting, a mother approached Shanteari Weems in the parking lot of her day care and told her James Weems had molested her child in the van used to transport kids.
Breaking News Alerts
O’Keefe said that while there were some factors in favor of a shorter sentence, including that Weems’ emotional state impaired her ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions and that she significantly assisted law enforcement, she had deliberately planned her trip to D.C. and her husband’s injuries were “life-altering.”
Four people testified in support of Shanteari Weems’ character Friday, including a Baltimore Police cadet who attended her center as a child.
Her case garnered national attention online, and her supporters packed the D.C. courtroom and a virtual court platform Friday.
James Weems, 57, who retired from the Baltimore Police Department in 2005, faces 33 charges alleging sexual abuse in Baltimore County Circuit Court. His jury trial is set for May, according to online court records.
At least some of the charges are related to alleged victims at his wife’s day care, Lil Kidz Kastle. The daycare closed July 20, the day before the shooting.
In July, Baltimore County Police said the department was working with D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, prosecutors, the state Department of Education and the state Department of Human Services, Child Protective Services, according to a news release.
A spokeswoman for the human services agency said in July that she could not deny or confirm a CPS investigation due to Maryland confidentiality laws.