DULUTH (AP) -- A judge sentenced a woman who pleaded guilty in a stabbing case to read a list of books, poetry and government documents, including the Declaration of Independence, and submit a report on each to the court.
The judge also ordered the woman to serve 14 months probation, refrain from drinking alcohol and submit to random alcohol tests.
The woman, Leah Marie Fairbanks, 25, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault for stabbing Ciro Carales-Toledo five times during a fight in a Duluth apartment last May. Police said she was drunk at the time of the stabbing, with a blood alcohol level of .22, more than twice the level defined as a limit by the state's drunken driving law.
Fairbanks' attorney and other supporters argued she has a high IQ and is trying to turn her life around after a divorce and the loss of custody of three children.
Judge Terry Hallenbeck ordered her to read and prepare reports on eight works, including Emily Dickinson's "We Never Know," Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" and John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." If Fairbanks fails to complete the list and other conditions of her probation, Hallenbeck said he'll order her to serve up to eight years in prison.
A man who also pleaded guilty to first degree assault in the incident, David Lee Mitchell, was sentenced by a different judge to eight years in prison. The public defender who represented Mitchell advised him to appeal.
Mitchell had a prior criminal record of robberies. But the crime was a first offense for Fairbanks. Even so, Hallenbeck departed from sentencing guidelines after Fairbanks displayed remorse for the crime and received several recommendation letters at her sentencing hearing.
Even the victim, Carales-Toledo, told the judge he didn't mind if Fairbanks received probation but said he didn't want to see her again. And so, the judge also ordered Fairbanks to stay away from Carales-Toledo.
Defense attorney John Lind, who represented Fairbanks, said, "It takes a lot of courage for a judge like Hallenbeck to do what he did. He just decided this person was worthy of a chance to be rehabilitated. He's basically saying, 'it's all up to you now.' What more can you ask of a system?"
But the police detective who investigated the incident said the sentence was one of the lightest he'd seen for such a serious crime.
In a memorandum with his sentencing order, Hallenbeck wrote about the risk of the sentence he imposed. "If she fails it will be because she fails to abstain from chemicals," the judge wrote. "She cannot handle alcohol in any amount. It is poison to her biologic system and to her intellect."
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