The Wyoming Supreme Court has chosen to affirm a sentence for Sweetwater County woman Audrey Mae Lessner, who was earlier charged with felony child abuse.

Lessner appealed her conviction, arguing the district court abused its discretion when it denied her a motion for a continuance the morning of the trial.

Wyoming Supreme Court documents show that on June 18, 2022 Lessner agreed to babysit an eleven-year-old girl.

After dinner was prepared, Lessner and the girl watched a movie while they ate.

The facts of the case show the girl picked at her meal rather than eating it. About fifteen minutes later the girl asked if she could take a shower because she had finished her food. Lessner approved.

Then Lessner felt something was off and eventually found food spilling out underneath the table.

Before taking action, she looked up Wyoming's corporal punishment laws on her computer and allegedly prayed to calm down because she was so frustrated with the child.

Then she took a belt and folded it twice to maintain control of the buckle. She spanked the child eleven times. Afterwards she took the child to her grandparents' house.

Lessner told the grandfather she wanted him to take the child because "she's lied to me for the last time." Inside, the girl began to complain about her leg.

The next day, brusing became more apparent. The girl's grandmother called the police to file a report. Later the girls father took her to the Green River Police Department to meet with investigating officers.

There a nurse examined her and took pictures.

Lessner was charged with felony child abuse on July 21. She was arrested several days later and appointed council.

In February 2023, Lessner filed a motion seeking to remove her council and reprsent herself.

On the day of the trial, she asked for a continuance, but the courts denied.

During the trial, Lessner addmitted to spanking the child eleven times. On cross examination, the prosecution asked why she chose a belt rather than her hand and she responded: "Because I'm not breaking blood vessels in my hand over an 11-year-old child."

The District Court found Lessner guilty and sentenced her to five years of supervised probation with an underlying sentence of five to seven years in prison.

Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-202(a)(ii)(B) defines “physical injury” as “any harm to a child including but not limited to disfigurement, impairment of any bodily organ, skin bruising if greater in magnitude than minor bruising associated with reasonable corporal punishment, bleeding, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma or substantial malnutrition[.]”

Under this statute:

[A] person responsible for a child’s welfare is not guilty of child abuse if the physical injury results from reasonable
corporal punishment. In other words, because reasonable corporal punishment is a listed element, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the physical injury is not the result of discipline a parent is permitted to administer.

The court found Lessner's actions against the child unreasonable based on the way she used the belt, the number of times she used it, the child's brusing, and the fact that the child had only lied about food.

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