Former foster mother, Michelle Lee Hayes, who was sentenced to 10 years deferred adjudication for injuring a child and violated her probation hours later by consuming alcohol, has now been sentenced to 15 years for revocation of probation.
Hayes, 44, was facing up to 99 years or life in prison after it was discovered she had been drinking the morning she reported to the Harrison County Jail to begin her 30-day stint, as a condition of probation.
Hayes had reported to the jail on Friday, April 5, following her Thursday, April 4, sentencing in which 71st Judicial Judge Brad Morin gave her strict orders to remove all alcohol from her home since it wasn’t clear whether or not alcohol played a role in the injury to a child incident.
After learning of her alcohol consumption against the judge’s orders, Harrison County District Attorney Reid McCain filed a motion, on Monday, April 8, requesting the judge to proceed with adjudication of guilt in the matter.
During a hearing on Tuesday, Hayes pleaded “true” to the violation and Judge Morin assessed her punishment at 15 years.
“You don’t know how difficult it was to give you probation the first time,” he said.
The judge said his decision actually would’ve been easier if she would’ve been honest about her alcohol use.
“I could’ve helped,” he told Hayes. “I have a hard time going out on a limb.”
Reflecting on the prosecutor’s statement in the April sentencing hearing about the judge being the conscience of the community, Morin said he’d like to believe people give others a second chance, so he gave Hayes one. It was her last. The judge said he now believes alcohol did play a role in her injury to a child case and that Hayes is not being honest.
“You’re not truthful with me today,” he said.
“If you gave somebody a chance and in less than 16 hours they violate the most thing I emphasized” (chances are up), he said.
Hayes’ probation officer Alyssa Roberson took the stand Tuesday, advising that when she went to the county jail on April 5 to ensure that Hayes had reported, she gave the defendant a urine test, which showed positive for alcohol.
She said Hayes initially lied to her, telling her that the last time she had any alcohol was the day before her bench trial. Roberson said Hayes’ breathalyzer test, showing a result of .052 blood alcohol concentration level proved that statement to be untrue.
“That is indicative of current use of alcohol,” Roberson said of the breathalyzer results. Eventually, “she did admit she drank Thursday night after court,” the probation officer said.
Roberson said she asked the former foster mother if she needed any help with substance abuse in order to possibly modify the terms of probation and send her to a rehabilitation center, but she declined.
“She said it’s not a problem; she can handle it on her own,” Roberson recalled.
She agreed with Hayes’ lawyers that Hayes, who also has a prior DWI, was in denial about her alcohol use.
Taking the stand Tuesday, Hayes’ husband Bradley Hayes gave insight to Hayes’ drinking issue. Answering questions from Hayes’ attorney, Kobby Warren, the husband said his wife would drink as a coping mechanism and to relieve her anxiety surrounding the outcome of her impending trial, at the time.
“It was most frequent the last two or three months (leading up to her trial),” he said, sharing how she would drink wine late at night because she couldn’t sleep.
Oftentimes, he’d wake up to a dirty wine glass. The husband said the night before she was to report to serve her 30 days in jail, Hayes was absolutely terrified of being incarcerated. He said when she was arrested for injury to a child, she was only in custody for one day before she made bond.
“Her biggest fear (about her trial) was being sent to prison,” he said. “And she believed in prison, she’d be physically abused.”
“The day of the trial was probably the most stressful (period) she and I ever went through together,” he said. “After we left the courtroom it was kind of like an elephant getting off my chest. It took several hours for me trying to relax and return back to normal.
“I could only imagine it was more so for her,” he said.
The husband said when he woke up around 4 a.m. on April 5, the morning Hayes was set to report for her 30-day stint, he realized she had not gone to bed. Instead, he found her drinking wine and “stopped it.” He said he put Hayes to bed and made sure she arrived to the jail on time.
“She really didn’t have an explanation. She was just scared,” he said.
When asked if he thought she had a drinking problem, the husband said yes, and felt she needed to go to a treatment facility.
Answering questions from Assistant District Attorney Madison Hood, the husband said he remembers the judge admonishing his wife to remove all of the alcohol from their home, but doesn’t know what her intentions were.
“I can’t say what her intentions were, but mine certainly were to follow his orders,” the husband said.
Addressing the witness, Judge Morin said what really concerns him is that Hayes was put to bed at 4 a.m. and six-and-a-half hours later, she tested a 0.52 BAC on the breathalyzer.
“How was she behaving at 4 in the morning?” the judge asked.
“She appeared intoxicated,” the husband responded.
When asked by Morin if he believed alcohol played a role in Hayes’ injury to a child incident, the husband said no because he’s never seen her drink at noon, which is when the incident happened.
The defendant, Michelle Hayes, also took the stand Tuesday, explaining what led to her violation.
When asked by her attorney, Warren, why she didn’t get rid of the alcohol as court-ordered, the former foster mother said she just didn’t think about it.
“I didn’t know it’d be the issue that it turned into,” said Hayes.
She said she was busy doing stuff with the family before they went to bed. She said as she began organizing and labeling some items to take with her for her brief incarceration, the realization of what had transpired suddenly hit her. She agreed she used alcohol as an escape mechanism of what she was facing.
Responding to her attorney, Hayes said she sees now that she has a drinking problem.
“You agree with me someone on probation like you are risking their freedom, they’d have to have a drinking problem?” Warren asked.
“Yes,” said Hayes.
Warren said they wouldn’t be back in court if it wasn’t for alcohol. He said his client was asking for an in-patient treatment to curb her condition with alcohol.
Addressing Hayes, prosecutor Hood asked her if she understood that the judge went out on a huge limb to give her probation the first time under the strict condition that she couldn’t consume alcohol.
When asked what her intentions were regarding the alcohol, Hayes said they were planning to remove an open bottle out of the garage, but went to the store and forgot.
“I was just sitting in the kitchen marking my (items) and thinking about the next 30 days and getting out on probation and what my life would look like the next two years and watching Netflix,” Hayes said, noting she started to drink close to midnight.
Hayes said she only consumed a little wine from an open bottle and about half of a second bottle that was in the fridge to relax.
Hood pointed out that Hayes BAC was past the legal limit for driving. Hayes said she didn’t think about the possibility of her probation officer giving her a urinalysis test.
When asked by Hood why she just couldn’t be honest with the probation officer from the beginning when asked about the last time she drank alcohol, Hayes gave a blank stare.
Hayes insisted that alcohol did not play a factor in her child abuse case.
“When you slammed (the child’s) head against the crib were you drinking then?” Hood asked.
“No,” Hayes maintained.
In closing arguments, Warren, representing Hayes, said obviously they didn’t anticipate being back before the judge, certainly not this early “but we’re here.”
He said he wouldn’t have taken the long distance trip to Marshall if he didn’t believe in his client and that she needed rehabilitation instead of prison.
“Thirty days to her, to someone who has never been in custody to that extent sounds like an eternity,” Warren argued. “(It’s) something that was going to change her life; something she wasn’t mentally prepared for.”
He said his client is truly an alcoholic. He argued that while she violated the court’s orders, her alcohol abuse is not an intentional disrespect to the court.
“I’d be honest I wouldn’t have driven several hours back down here if I didn’t believe she’d be pretty successful on this probation,” said Warren, adding in his 20 years of practice he’s never seen a violation of probation occur this fast.
“We’re here asking for help for this drinking problem that has led us to this courtroom,” the defense attorney added. “I’m asking to help her with her treatment and give her one more opportunity.”
In her closing arguments, Hood, for the state, pointed out Hayes’ lack of accountability.
“Michelle Hayes does not take responsibility for her actions,” Hood argued.
The prosecutor said it’s great that the defendant has a husband who believes in her and family who supports her, but they have all enabled her.
Hood further contended that the reason they are in court is not because of alcohol, but because Hayes caused injury to a child.
“We’re here because she slammed a (toddler’s) head into a crib and he had a brain bleed,” Hood said of the May 2017 incident.
Hood reminded about inconsistencies in Hayes’ story.
“She lies about things. During her open plea (in trial), she said alcohol first played a role in it and then she said it didn’t,” said Hood. “Now she’s saying it again.
“She manipulates people and she’s really good at it,” said Hood.
Hood said Hayes got a slap on the wrist for her injury to child case when Judge Morin gave her probation.
“She threw it right in your face,” Hood told the judge. “You went out on a limb.”
“Her husband, it’s not his responsibility to get the alcohol out of the house,” Hood added.
Hood said the victim’s family in this case has been very patient and was present in the courtroom Tuesday.
“They’ve been very patient the whole situation,” said Hood.
“So I ask can you not forget why we’re really here,” she asked the judge.
“She should not get another chance,” the prosecutor argued. “The state doesn’t think this is a probation case to begin with.
“At some point in time we’ve got to take responsibility for ourselves,” said Hood.