Sandra Mendez Ortega, an undocumented 19-year-old single mother with a baby on the way, works as a maid – a tough job that affords little pay and is mostly held by women of color. According to The Washington Post, she cleaned houses for just $60 a day.
While cleaning the home of Lisa Copeland, Mendez Ortega stole three rings worth $5,000, reports The Washington Post. Police investigated the theft and questioned three women that all cleaned the home of Copeland family. Though all three initially denied the the theft, eventually Mendez Ortega confessed, which led to her arrest.
Mendez Ortega, who claims she didn’t know how much the rings were worth, spent eight days in jail and was released on $1,000 bond. Police made Mendez Ortega write an apology letter to Copeland. She wrote in Spanish: “Sorry for grabbing the rings. I don’t know what happened. I want you to forgive me.”
During her trial, which ended last week, the jury was moved by Mendez Ortega’s story. She dropped out of school after sixth grade, was pregnant at 15 and again at 19, and did not have a job. Copeland called it a “sob story” and was angry to not only hear the jury and others feel compassion for Mendez Ortega, but that they’d give her such a small sentence for her crime.
Mendez Ortega’s punishment was a day’s pay — a $60 fine. According to the Washington Post, the jury felt terrible for convicting the single mother, and they felt even worse for making her pay that fine, so they did something extraordinary. They took up a collection to pay her fine.
“The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” said jury foreman Jeffery Memmott to The Washington Post. “Two of the women [jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt. One lady pulled out a $20 bill, and just about everybody chipped in.”
The juror then went to her home and gave her the entire collection of $80.
Copeland was not happy to hear about the jury’s giving nature.
“The punishment was she didn’t get paid for the day she stole from us,” Copeland told The Washington Post. “But then she did get paid for it. That’s changed my whole view of it.”
“She made $20 out of it, too,” she added.
So what did Mendez Ortega say when she was informed that the jury wanted to pay her fine?
“I became happy when I heard they wanted to give me that [money],” she said. “Thank you very much to all of them. God bless them.”
H/T: First the jury convicted this 19-year-old maid for stealing. Then they took up a collection to pay her fine.