WASHINGTON — A Samoan woman who acknowledged killing her newborn son at a Washington convent where she was studying to become a nun was sentenced Friday to four years in prison.
Sosefina Amoa, 26, has said she didn't know she was pregnant before she gave birth to a baby boy in her room at the Little Sisters of the Poor convent in Washington in early October. Amoa had arrived in the United States from Samoa less than a week before delivering the child. She acknowledged as part of a plea deal in February that after giving birth to her son she put a piece of wool clothing over his nose and mouth and applied pressure, smothering him.
On Monday, prosecutor Cynthia Wright praised Amoa's "generosity of spirit" for wanting to help others and become a nun, but she said Amoa also initially lied, claiming she had found the dead child outside, before acknowledging the boy was hers and had been born alive.
"The hard truth is that she consciously killed her son," Wright said in asking for a five-year sentence.
Wright held up a larger-than life photo of the infant and asked that the courtroom remain silent for two minutes, the same amount of time that Amoa has acknowledged having her hand over the child's mouth. Amoa's attorney, Judith Pipe, called the request "theatrics," but the judge allowed the court to pause.
In response, Pipe argued that Amoa would never have come to the United States if she knew she was pregnant and was "panicked" and "terrified" after giving birth. Pipe said Amoa loves children and never intended to hurt her baby. She has said previously that Amoa didn't mean to kill the boy, only to quiet him so she could figure out what to do.
Pipe asked that Amoa not spend any more time in jail and instead be deported immediately to her native Samoa. Or, she said, a sentence of less than a year was appropriate.
"This is a woman who will be punished for the rest of her days no matter what the court's judgment is," she said.
Amoa cried throughout much of the hearing. At one point she addressed the judge, her voice breaking repeatedly, telling him she was "shocked" when she gave birth to her son, whom she named Joseph.
"I was not able to think straight," Amoa said and asked for forgiveness.
Judge Robert Morin called the case a "tremendous tragedy" and said he believed Amoa was in denial about her pregnancy and shocked when she gave birth. Morin said Amoa had led a good life before hurting her child and he believes she is committed to leading a good life again.
"I hope you do heal," he told her.
Two Little Sisters of the Poor nuns attended Monday's hearing but declined to comment.
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