SANTA ANA, Calif. – The mother of a teenage girl who sucker-punched an opposing player in the head during a youth basketball game in Garden Grove — an attack she directed, and that went viral via cellphone video — was allowed Wednesday to be placed in a new program that allows defendants to avoid jail time.
As part of her participation in the diversion program, Latira Shonty Hunt, 46, of La Puente, will pay about $9,000 in restitution, write letters apologizing to the victim, her parents and both basketball teams and complete anger management classes before she is allowed to attend basketball games again, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Hunt filed for the pretrial misdemeanor diversion program in July.
“Parents have a fundamental responsibility to raise our children to be good human beings who treat everyone with dignity and respect,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement.
“Youth sports play a crucial role in developing discipline, teamwork and fair play. A grown adult directing a child to use violence against another child on the basketball court is reprehensible,” Spitzer continued. “By instructing her own daughter to engage in violence, she is not only responsible for injuring an innocent child as if she punched her with her own fist, but she transformed her own child into someone who is willing to hurt another child.”
Hunt’s attorney, Brett Greenfield, said in a statement that the resolution of the case “marks a resounding victory for both Ms. Hunt and her daughter who from the inception of this incident took accountability for their actions and did everything in their power to rectify this situation.”
Greenfield said compliance with the conditions of the resolution will lead to an “outright dismissal of the entire criminal action. This is the appropriate and just result.”
The defense attorney said his client and her daughter “can now begin to heal. Unfortunately, this incident opened the social media door for many individuals to make direct statements to Ms. Hunt and her minor daughters. These statements were infected with racism, bigotry, threats, humiliation, bullying and more. The harm created will last a lifetime. We can only hope that this dark and demented belief system in our community, our state, and our country will someday see an end.”
Greenfield thanked prosecutors “for their kid understanding and professional cooperation in reaching this resolution.”
The attorney previously noted in court papers that his client has no prior criminal record.
“Defendant respectfully asks this court for mercy,” Greenfield wrote. “Defendant, a single mother of two daughters, has never been charged or convicted of a criminal action prior to this incident.”
He added Hunt has “been the source of national news exposure, ridicule, racist threats and rants, and for several months was forced to hide in a hotel with her children due to the nature of the violent threats. Defendant was forced to pull her juvenile daughter out of school for months, and only now is her life starting to become normal again.”
The defense attorney said prosecutors had indicated they would not object if the defendant wrote a letter of apology to the victim, enrolled in a 10-week anger management course before engaging in youth sports spectatorship again and agreed to a stay-away order from the victim.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Hunt was in the stands of the Nov. 7 game at the Map Sports Facility in Garden Grove, and after her daughter had an on-court interaction with an opposing player, Hunt yelled, “You better hit her for that.”
Moments later, the teenage daughter approached the opposing player and slugged her in the head. Alice Ham, the mother of the 15-year-old girl who was struck, told reporters later that her daughter suffered a concussion from the blow.
The father of the girl who threw the punch, former NBA player Corey Benjamin, issued a statement on social media shortly after the game apologizing for his daughter’s actions.