LOS ANGELES -- A California mother must pay more than $9,000 in restitution and apologize to a teenage basketball player she told her daughter to hit during a youth basketball game in 2021, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The woman's daughter punched the opponent in the neck and she collapsed on the court, suffering a concussion. The punch was recorded on cellphone video.
The mother, Latira Shonty Hunt, was criminally charged last year with one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one misdemeanor count of battery. She faced up to a year in jail.
An Orange County judge allowed Hunt, 44, to participate in a diversion program that includes a written apology letter, restitution and anger management classes before she can attend basketball games. She must also stay away from the victim.
“A grown adult directing a child to use violence against another child on the basketball court is reprehensible,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a news release. "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.”
The criminal case will be dismissed if Hunt complies with the diversion program, her attorney, Brett Greenfield, said in a statement. The lawyer said Hunt and her daughter took responsibility for their actions.
“Ms. Hunt and her daughter can now begin to heal,” Greenfield said. “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.”
An attorney for the teenage victim's family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The basketball game occurred Nov. 7, 2021, when two club teams played during a tournament in the city of Garden Grove near Los Angeles.
Hunt yelled to her daughter “you better hit her for that” after a physical play, prosecutors said.
Her daughter then threw a punch and the 15-year-old victim crumpled “to the floor like a rag doll,” Spitzer said when Hunt was charged last year.
“In my opinion it would have not happened, but for mom’s words,” Spitzer said in December. He said Hunt’s words “were the catalyst” that caused her daughter “to even think about” punching the other girl.
The girl who threw the punch is the daughter of former NBA player Corey Benjamin, who issued an apology shortly after he saw the video of the game last year. His pro career included stints with the Chicago Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks and overseas teams.
“As a father, I’m shocked and disappointed at my daughter’s behavior as this is not a reflection of the values and standards that my family holds. Nor does it exemplify the values, character and spirit of sportsmanship that the game of basketball requires,” Benjamin said in a statement at the time.