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Gloria Williams' appeal is denied; prison sentence for kidnapping baby Kamiyah Mobley upheld

Williams said her 18-year sentence was "cruel and unusual punishment," a claim the court unanimously rejected Monday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Gloria Williams’ claim that her 18-year prison sentence amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment” was rejected by the First District Court of Appeal Monday.

The unanimous decision, obtained by First Coast News, says the court “reject[s] as meritless the arguments Williams made in her pro se brief—that the eighteen-year sentence was unreasonable in light of mitigating factors and that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment.”

The court concluded, “The sentence was lawful.”

Williams was sentenced in June 2018 for kidnapping Kamiyah Mobley from University Medical Center, now UF Health-Jacksonville, just eight hours after she was born. The case drew national attention and ultimately forced changes in hospital procedures around the country.  

Gloria Williams raised the baby as her own daughter, under the name Alexis Manigo. Her secret wasn’t discovered until January 2017,  when Williams was arrested at her home in Walterboro, S.C.

In her self-filed, or “pro se” appeal, Williams said the 18-year sentence was “disproportionate” to her crime.

Williams argued when she committed the crime, she “had just suffered a devastating miscarriage and was exhibiting symptoms conducive to postpartum depression, as well as experiencing extreme mental and emotional disturbance. At the time she took the child, she was not in her right state of mind.”

She added that she was “truly remorseful” for the crime.

Gloria Williams pleaded guilty February 12 to kidnapping newborn baby Kamiyah Mobley from a Jacksonville hospital in 1998. PHOTO: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office

“[The Appellant] never once intended harm toward the child, and in fact brought her up to the best of the Appellant’s abilities and then some,” Williams wrote. “Even the victim, the kidnapped, spoke out in the Appellant’s favor and did not wish imprisonment which would take away the only mother she has ever known.”

In fact, Kamiyah declined to testify on Williams’ behalf. In lieu of testimony, Williams’ attorney entered into evidence a handful of interviews the teen has given reporters, including her interview with First Coast News.

“Of course, I’m not going to say, ‘Throw her in jail and throw away the key, or throw her underneath the jail,’” she told First Coast News at the time. “Of course, I don’t want to see so many years. But I understand a crime was done, you know? So, I understand some punishment has to be rendered.”

Williams avoided the possibility of a life sentence if her case had gone before a jury by accepting a plea deal of between 0 and 22 years. Circuit Judge Marianne Aho chose a prison term four years less than the maximum but 18 years more than the minimum.

Sentenced at 52, Williams could be released at age 68 or earlier. Jacksonville defense attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters told First Coast News convicts typically serve around 85 percent of their sentences. Based on that, Peoples-Waters said she estimated Williams will serve 14 years, less time served since her 2017 arrest.

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