At this writing there is a grieving father in Florida in prison for the accidental death of his baby daughter in the back of the family car. A tragic mistake too often repeated, yes, but nonetheless a mistake.
California, humanely, did not send its grieving father, a college professor to prison, nor even impose probation. But in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Antonio Balta, an uneducated immigrant, was handed the stiffest sentence of any father in America, 20 years!
Now is the time to free Antonio Balta.
It takes a leader of the stature and generosity of governor Charlie Crist to get our nation aware of it's responsibility to treat all it's people fairly.
Instead of being granted the traditional probation or exonerated as other fathers were, this blue collar dad was sentenced to 20 years without appeal, even though no drugs or alcohol were involved and he had no criminal record.
The imprisonment of Antonio Balta is a blight on the good conscience of our country. Antonio is a Peruvian immigrant who worked as a horse groomer at the Hallendale Racetrack. At the time of the accident he had very limited English and little understanding of our court system. No drugs or alcohol were involved. A reserved and quiet man, with no criminal record, he was overwhelmed by the tragedy that had overtaken him and without early legal counsel he could not make an effective defense for himself.
He is now into the 7th year of his 20-year sentence at Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell Fl. His incarceration is wasting a million dollars of Florida's critical needed funds.
As governor Crist leaves office now in 2010 here is an inspiring opportunity for him to free Antonio Balta and show the nation a way to more humane and pragmatic leadership.