Mom may cut deal in abuse case 

Shawnie Benedetti.
  • Shawnie Benedetti.

Another “emotionally difficult” trial in the case of a San Mateo woman who allegedly tied up her then-17-year-old daughter and force-fed her dish soap might be avoided because the mother and her attorney are considering a plea deal.

Prosecutors have been considering whether to retry 46-year-old Shawnie Benedetti on child abuse charges stemming from a May 28, 2009, incident in which she allegedly “went too far” during an argument with her daughter over an unpaid cellphone bill.

In February 2010, a jury found Benedetti guilty of inflicting corporal injury on a child and other charges. But the conviction was later overturned when an appeals court ruled that the trial judge unfairly refused to instruct the jury on a “mistake of fact” claim by the defense. The claim was that Benedetti had mistakenly thought her daughter was suicidal when she restrained her.

But prosecutors have been adamant that Benedetti needs to be punished for her actions. The only issue has been whether the daughter can endure another trial, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

To avoid that, Wagstaffe said, prosecutors have offered Benedetti a plea bargain, though details were not released.

During a pretrial conference Tuesday, Benedetti and her attorney said they need more time to discuss the deal. Instead of the retrial beginning next month, they will have a chance to accept the deal Sept. 5.

Benedetti’s attorney, Jonathan McDougall, has said a retrial would be a waste of taxpayer money, as the mom and daughter have since made amends and moved on.

The incident began after the daughter held a house party. After her friends left, court documents say, an argument broke out over Benedetti’s purported failure to pay her daughter’s cellphone bill.

Benedetti allegedly had a family friend help tie up her daughter. For more than an hour, the daughter said, Benedetti repeatedly punched her and muffled her screams with a pillow.

After her arrest, Benedetti reportedly told police she put “some soap and water” in her daughter’s mouth because she was acting “crazy.”

Benedetti testified that her daughter greatly exaggerated the events and had threatened suicide. Prosecutors said the daughter went to police with “numerous marks on her body.”

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