A judge sentenced a former worker at a day-care center in Woodbridge, Va., to nearly three years in prison for her role in what prosecutors called a "baby fight club."
Kierra Spriggs, 26, had been previously convicted by a jury on charges of abusing 2-year-olds at the Minnieland Academy. She and another Minnieland worker - Sarah Jordan, 31 - engaged in several abusive acts, including encouraging the kids to fight each other, feeding them Flamin' Hot Cheetos, stepping on their toes and spraying them full force with a water hose.
The abuse happened in 2013, and authorities said the exact motive remains murky. But officials with a child protective services agency have implied that it was for their own entertainment.
Other workers at the center testified that they saw some of the abuse, and one said she told management of the abuse months ago. But when no actions were taken, she alerted a child protective services agency.
Minnieland has several facilities throughout Virginia, including ones in Loudoun and Fairfax. It was started by Chuck and Jackie Leopold in the 1970s, according to their website.
At a Thursday hearing, Judge Carroll Weimer issued the sentencing for Spriggs. Jordan has already been convicted and sentenced to roughly two years in prison.
Patrick Foltz, a defense lawyer for Spriggs, argued in court that she lacked a criminal record and that there wasn't evidence the kids had any lasting injury, according to an article by the Associated Press.
But some of the parents testified in court that their children stopped talking, became closed off and showed aggressive behavior. Other children were said to be nervous about going into their assigned classroom. Prosecutors also said not enough time had passed to know the full impact of the abuse on the kids.
Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert said Friday the abuse and the way it was handled were "very concerning to the parents of the children, most of whom didn't know what was going on.
"When it came to light, it was very upsetting to anybody when small children like that are subject to cruelty."
The AP article said at least a dozen former families of the Minnieland day care have filed civil lawsuits that seek a collective total of $12 million in damages.
The AP said Spriggs did not speak at Thursday's hearing. She wrote in a letter to the judge, "I am whole-heartedly apologetic of the hurt, humiliation and embarrassment this tribulation has brought us all."