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WOMAN MUST PAY FOR DEATHS RESTITUTION LINKED TO CIVIL CASE.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - A Lancaster woman jailed 3 1/2 months for the deaths of two foster children she left in her sweltering SUV was ordered Thursday to pay any monetary judgment that might result from a pending civil lawsuit.

As part of her punishment for her involuntary manslaughter conviction, Leslie Smoot, 49, was ordered to pay restitution in accordance with any judgment in the civil lawsuit filed by the boys' parents, who were not in court Thursday.

``You are ordered to in good faith comply with any civil judgment in that case,'' Antelope Valley Superior Court Judge Lisa Chung said.

Smoot was sentenced in March to six months in jail for the deaths of Nehemaiha Prince-Smith, 3, and Dakota Prince-Smith, 5, after she pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter.

Smoot surrendered April 13 to start serving her sentence and was released July 30.

Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef said the boys' parents' attorney at the time of sentencing had agreed upon Thursday's date for a restitution hearing.

Mokayef also said she mailed a notice about the hearing to the mother's address but it came back unable to forward.

``There's no other way to do it but that way because we couldn't have a restitution hearing here today,'' Mokayef said outside of court.

Smoot's attorney, Michael Eberhardt, said restitution pursuant to civil judgment is subject to Smoot's ability to pay.

``If there's a civil judgment against her, the court can require her, if she has the ability to pay, to pay it,'' Eberhardt said after the hearing.

The boys' parents, Twila Prince and David Smith Jr., in April filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Smoot, Los Angeles County, and Trinity Children & Family Services, a foster family agency.

The boys died July 8, 2003, after being left in Smoot's Cadillac Escalade for five hours in near-100-degree heat outside her Lancaster child care center.

As part of her sentence, Smoot also was ordered not to do foster care or day-care work for the five years she is on probation and to perform 2,000 hours of community service and get counseling.

Smoot said at the sentencing that she forgot to take the boys out of the sport utility vehicle when she arrived at the day-care center and did not realize they were still in the vehicle until she went to leave for the day.

A former bus driver of handicapped children who has been a foster mother for 18 years, Smoot said she loved the boys and treated them as if they were her own children. She said she had taken in 55 foster children. She adopted or became the legal guardian of some of those children.

Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744

karen.maeshiro(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 6, 2004
Words:457
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