Just before being sentenced Monday in the scalding death of 10-year-old Jordan Gonsioroski, a sobbing and shaking Julie Ann Meier said that she was "so, so sorry" for having "failed Jordan"
as the girl's relatives and friends listened in an Anoka County courtroom.
"I loved Jordan ... and I never wanted to cause [her] pain," Meier said. "If I could go back, I would and change everything. I'm sorry."
Then District Judge Lawrence Johnson sentenced Meier to 22 1/2 years in prison, writing the final chapter in the story of the girl whose life ended a year ago last week in Blaine after being forced to spend at least seven minutes in a tub of scalding water.
Meier's sentence is more than the 15 years recommended by guidelines for abetting second-degree murder.
But it is not nearly as long as the 30-year sentence that prosecutors sought and that Jordan's father and Meier's boyfriend, Jason Gonsioroski, received last month for the same guilty plea.
Meier, 25, of Blaine, will receive credit for the year she has been incarcerated since Jordan's death and must serve at least 14 years in prison before being eligible for parole. She also must pay
restitution of nearly $6,200 from her prison wages to the state Crime Victims Reparations Board.
Prosecutors said they were disappointed that Johnson decided against a 30-year sentence for Meier, whose own lawyers admitted there was no excuse for her failure to get help for Jordan after
the girl emerged from the bathtub bleeding from the loss of her skin. According to court documents, she had burns over 73 percent of her body and suffered brain swelling.
Jordan's mother, Amanda Johnson, didn't attend the sentencing. But Jordan's great-grandmother said outside the courthouse afterward that Meier's sentence was fair.
"Now we're going to have some closure," said Florence Cohen of Isanti, Minn., who was wearing a button with the smiling face of her late great-granddaughter. "They both will be doing time for
what they did to her. They still have to meet that Maker."
Gonsioroski had testified that Jordan was in the bathtub as punishment for putting a nacho chip in her underwear, a practice the girl had started after her mother's boyfriend allegedly sexually assaulted her. Charges were dropped after her death.
At his plea hearing this spring, Gonsioroski said that it was Meier who kept Jordan in the bathtub until she began to bleed and her skin sloughed off like tissue paper.
For her part, Meier told the court in March that Gonsioroski had insisted Jordan stay in the tub for 10 minutes, even though the girl was crying that it hurt. Authorities said the water could have reached a temperature of 148 degrees Fahrenheit two minutes after the tap was opened.
Meier said she had pleaded with Gonsioroski to call the police, but he refused and kept the phone from her because he was afraid he would be arrested. She tearfully admitted that she didn't seek help for the girl.
Instead Meier, a trained medical assistant, gave the vomiting girl Tylenol and treated her with a sunburn spray to soothe her.
Jordan was sent to bed, where the medical examiner determined she died two to three hours later, before Meier finally called 911. A pathologist said that Jordan wouldn't have died if she had received
proper medical care.
Gonsioroski and Meier were each originally charged with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of aiding and abetting.
At the hearing Monday, Assistant Anoka County Attorney Robert Goodell said there were sound reasons to give Meier a longer sentence than recommended by the state. A psychological evaluation found no signs of a mental disorder, he said, and there was nothing to back her claims of abuse by Gonsioroski. Because there was no evidence that one defendant was more culpable than the other, Goodell said, Meier should be treated the same as Gonsioroski.
Lifetime of abuse
But public defender Bryan Leary argued that Meier had a closer relationship with Jordan than did Gonsioroski. He said that while Jordan's father was outside smoking marijuana, Meier had stayed
with the girl "until she died in her arms." Meier's other attorney, public defender Virginia Murphrey, said Meier herself had endured a lifetime of abuse that robbed her of judgment and "made her unable to do the right thing."
The judge said he had struggled to determine an appropriate sentence for Meier. She had agreed to take Jordan into her home to join her three children with Gonsioroski, he said, but then had
taken no action to help Jordan "because Mr. Gonsioroski did not approve." Nevertheless, Johnson said, he was convinced that Meier was genuinely remorseful.
Leary called the sentence "a very fair decision." He said Meier had been working on a letter to Amanda Johnson, Jordan's mother, but hadn't yet sent it.
Jordan's grandmother, Sharon Voigt of Isanti, Minn., said afterward that Meier had no excuse for not doing something to save the girl, but that someday she may be able to forgive her.
"Jordan knows what happened here today, because I talk to her every chance I get," Voigt said. "She probably would have given Julie a hug and said, `It's OK.' If she wasn't dead."
Kevin Duchschere - 612-673-4455