BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. (PIX11) – A woman who went to prison in 2017 for scalding and stabbing her boyfriend, only to get his forgiveness, received clemency from Gov. Kathy Hochul Friday.
This means Myeshia Hawkins-Taylor, 49, will get released six years early from her 16-year sentence for attempted murder.
PIX11 News interviewed Hawkins-Taylor inside Westchester’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 2018, where she spoke about the crack-fueled rage that led to her crime and her own survival of extreme family violence.
Hawkins-Taylor showed us the scars on her feet she said came from a scalding when she was only 18 months old.
Family court records indicate that was just the start of repeated childhood pain.
In a statement released by Hochul, the state’s chief executive gave the reasons why she was commuting the prisoner’s sentence.
“Ms. Hawkins-Taylor is a survivor of severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse inflicted by family members and others, and the instant offense occurred when she was suffering a post-traumatic episode. She and the victim of this offense have since reconciled, and the victim supports a grant of clemency in her case,” Hochul said in the statement.
The victim is Carlton Adams, of New Jersey, who was placed in a medically-induced coma while recovering from his injuries in 2016. Adams and Hawkins-Taylor were renting a room in Harlem after meeting at a substance use treatment program. The two had argued over money.
“I threw hot oil on him, and I stabbed him,” Hawkins-Taylor told PIX11 News in 2018. “He said, ‘Myeshia, why are you doing this to me? I love you.'”
Hawkins-Taylor said she didn’t believe his words, so she let him lay in the room for 36 hours before summoning medical help.
Yet shortly after his hospital release, Adams started visiting Hawkins-Taylor on Rikers Island before she entered a guilty plea in court.
“I can’t live with hate in my heart,” Adams told PIX11 News in 2018, as he showed us the burn scars on his back, right side, and upper right arm. “To keep my sanity, I have to forgive.”
Adams had appealed to the judge to be lenient with his girlfriend.
“I understand the crime was messed up,” Adams said in 2018, “but 16 years? That’s too much for me.”
PIX11 News was making efforts to reach Adams about the commutation of the Hawkins-Taylor sentence.
Hawkins-Taylor did her PIX11 News interview behind prison walls in 2018 in an effort to salvage a family violence program that was benefitting inmates like her. The only time she cried during the meeting was when she recalled an alleged incident of abuse involving her late father, whom she long regarded as her protector.
“When the situation occurred, it just broke my heart, my soul, my spirit, everything,” Hawkins-Taylor said through tears.
She told PIX11 News she started having sex at a young age with boys in group homes, becoming pregnant with her son at 14 and later giving birth to a daughter at age 17.
In her 20s, Hawkins-Taylor told us she started dabbling in cocaine, which led to crack use — and the removal of her children from her household.
Adams was the only person to visit her in prison.
Professor Kate Mogulescu, of Brooklyn Law School, heard about the Hawkins-Taylor case and went to bat for her.
Mogulescu tried to get the inmate considered for release under a 2019 New York State domestic violence law that allows some prisoners to get re-sentenced. But Hawkins-Taylor was rejected.
Mogulescu said she then appealed directly to Hochul’s office and sent two stories from PIX11 News about Hawkins-Taylor and the family violence program. The tides then shifted.
“Ms. Hawkins-Taylor has engaged in therapeutic programming to understand her trauma and its impact on her behavior, and has become an active member of an advocacy network focused on advising and supporting incarcerated survivors of domestic violence,” according to Hochul’s statement. “Ms. Hawkins-Taylor has also taken courses through Marymount Manhattan College.”
Mogulescu said Hawkins-Taylor called her shortly after learning about the governor’s commutation of her sentence through the Bedford Hills superintendent. The lawyer said the stunned inmate almost couldn’t believe it.
The lawyer said her own feelings were, “Utter joy. Such joy and relief. It’s been a long fight and it’s so well deserved.”
Mogulescu said Hawkins-Taylor has grown a lot during her seven and a half years behind bars, with more than six years in state prison. The inmate became a board member of the Survivor’s Justice Project.
“She has reckoned with a lot,” Mogulescu said. “She has an incredibly strong team behind her now. She will have a strong support system and she will be able to continue her advocacy work outside prison.”
The lawyer said fellow inmates are happy for Hawkins-Taylor.
“So many women are coming up to her and saying she’s giving them hope,” Mogulescu shared.