KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A judge has rejected the plea deal for a woman involved in a sexual assault case at a Lee’s Summit day care.
Emily Hammerly was charged in the case after she allegedly failed to report child abuse at her Little Learner day care.
Her son, Joseph Hammerly, is charged with felony sodomy after he allegedly sexually abused three 5-year-old girls.
Under a plea deal offered by the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, if Emily Hammerly successfully completed probation, she could have walked away without a criminal conviction on her record.
"It's bad enough that we had to fight the Hammerly family through the civil process, and now when we're supposed to have advocates in the prosecutor's office, they give this lenient, favorable deal to Emily," the father of an alleged victim said, "And it just feels like we're always fighting."
In a statement, the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office said the agreement was offered "in the hopes of limiting three child victims' courtroom testimony to one case, not two."
Still, the alleged victims’ families compared the plea deal to “a punch in the stomach and urged Judge Kenneth Garrett to reject it.
"I'm here today because I want you and Emily Hammerly to know my pain," the mother of one of the girls told the judge through tears on Monday.
Three parents and one sibling talked about the lingering emotional effects the alleged abuse had on the girls.
"Since these events, our 5-year-old little girl started crying out in the night, 'no, stop,' while kicking and screaming," one mother said.
The families found support outside the courtroom, as community members gathered near the Jackson County courthouse in Independence to protest the deal, carrying signs that read “children can’t stop child abuse, adults can,” and “protect the children, not the pedophiles.”
"The judge received dozens of emails from the community, the prosecutors received hundreds of emails," the father of an alleged victim said.
A petition against the plea bargain garnered more than 5,000 signatures.
In rejecting the deal, Judge Garrett raised concerns about Hammerly's criminal record being closed and said he was concerned about her slipping through the cracks with licensing if she tried to open another day care.
"I don't think it serves the community as a whole, and it is a danger to future vulnerable members of society, our youth, if she is involved in any type of daycare," he said.
People gathered outside the courthouse were relieved to hear of Garrett's decision.
"We are just thrilled that the judge heard over 5,000 signatures. Our community is going to be so pleased that he is fighting for our kids," Anna McGraw, a supporter, said.
While he realizes it will be a difficult experience, the father of one of the girls told 41 Action News they are ready for this case to go to trial.
"I don't want to put my daughter on the stand. But if I have to choose between that and Emily getting away with a clean record in five years, it's an easy choice. And the other parents feel the same way," he said.
However, in its statement, the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office again shared concerns about putting children on the stand.
"While some of the families are upset about the circumstances of this plea, others are upset that this is the ultimate outcome for their children. We wish we were able to satisfy all involved while seeking justice through this system. Going forward, we will continue to work to achieve justice," a spokesman wrote.
Emily Hammerly and her attorney declined to comment after the hearing on Monday.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for late next month, which is when Joseph Hammerly's trial is also slated to begin.
The full statement from the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office about the case can be found here.
For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.