Ex-Tucson reporters plead guilty in case where child tested positive for cocaine
ORO VALLEY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The two former Tucson reporters originally facing child abuse charges were in court Wednesday, Aug. 31, to enter guilty pleas to child endangerment.
Somchai P. Lisaius, a former reporter at Tucson News Now, and Krystin Rae Lisaius, a former reporter at KGUN 9, were indicted June 9 after police said their baby tested positive for cocaine.
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The Lisaiuses pleaded guilty to child endangerment, on Wednesday.
Child abuse and drug possession charges against them would be dropped under the plea agreement.
Both defendants expressed regret and had to take responsibility for their actions.
"You both agree that your behavior was reckless by using cocaine and then knowingly - you, of course, Ms. Lisaius - breastfeeding the child the next morning, that constituted endangering the child, recklessly endangering her?" asked Pima County Superior Court Judge Howard Fell.
According to police reports, Krystin Lisaius said she thought the cocaine had already left her system when she breastfed her baby.
The couple does not have custody of the baby who is now with her maternal grandmother.
The Lisaius' attorney, Mike Piccarreta, said his clients have been working to make things right and regain custody of their child.
"They've been going through regular drug testing. They've been going through parenting classes. They have gone through counseling. ... Anytime anyone even hints they want something done, they step up and do it," Piccarreta said.
Piccarreta said the judge has many sentencing options.
"At sentencing the judge has options, but generally, with their background and how well they've done and the fact that this is an isolated mistake and not a pattern of behavior, we're hopeful that they'll be placed on probation," Piccarreta said.
The Pima County Attorney's office said the sentencing range is one-third of a year to two years in prison, and/or up to three years probation.
If the Lisaiuses are sentenced to probation, the judge may tell them that the Class 6 felony may be reduced to a misdemeanor if they successfully complete their sentences.
Sentencing is set for Oct. 3 at 9 a.m.
Piccarreta also had a message he wanted to share after court on Wednesday.
"It is a lesson for all parents that if you use any substance - alcohol, prescription substances, illegal substances - that you do not breastfeed your child and do not assume that things go out of your system immediately. Even if you do not feel the effects, (the effects) linger and it could cause harm for the person you love more than anything," Piccarreta said.
The Lisaiuses appeared in court in June, and pleaded not guilty to child abuse charges and were released on their own recognizance.
They originally were facing charges of child abuse with death or serious physical injury likely, possession of a narcotic drug and possession of drug paraphernalia. All three charges are felonies.
According to a police report, the couple took the child to the Oro Valley Hospital on the morning of May 15 because the baby was lethargic and not eating normally.
After refusing to allow a blood test to be run on the child, the parents brought the baby to Banner University Medical Center.
At Banner, the Lisaiuses again refused to allow a blood test to be run but a urine analysis for the baby showed the presence of cocaine.
The police report indicated that the couple admitted to snorting cocaine at a party at their home on May 14.
Krystin Lisaius admitted to breastfeeding the child 12 hours after the drug use but said she didn't think the baby would be affected.
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