Standing in an orange jumpsuit and wiping back tears with a tissue inside a courtroom in Washington, D.C., Shanteari Weems recounted how she always believed that her husband, James, was her protector.
For 11 1/2 years, Weems said, she worked as a correctional officer. But she was inspired to quit and start her own child care business in 2005 after noticing that prisoners kept getting younger and younger. She felt that she could help keep children from entering the criminal justice system.
Weems said she thought that her husband provided a level of security that other day cares did not have in the area. But then, she learned that he was under investigation regarding allegations that he sexually abused children at her business, Lil Kidz Kastle Daycare Center in Owings Mills.
On July 21, 2022, Weems drove from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., to confront her husband inside his hotel room on the eighth floor of what was then called the Mandarin Oriental and shot him two times. She barricaded herself inside before later surrendering to D.C. Metropolitan Police.
“I reacted as a protective mother,” Weems said. “However, I know that doesn’t justify my actions and I shouldn’t have taken matters into my own hands. And I was wrong. And I take full accountability for my actions.”
Stating that the only bright spot in the case was that she did not take her own life, Judge Michael O’Keefe on Friday sentenced Weems, 50, of Randallstown, in D.C. Superior Court on charges of aggravated assault and carrying a pistol without a license to four years in prison — plus two years’ supervised release. She will serve her sentence in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and receive credit for the time that she’s already spent incarcerated.
O’Keefe described a proposed plea agreement from the government in the case as “extremely lenient,” bringing up the tougher sentencing guidelines for other charges that she could have faced in the shooting. The judge noted that there were factors that both weighed in favor of imposing a shorter and longer penalty.
He described her capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct as significantly impaired and mentioned that she has provided information to law enforcement. But Weems, he said, acted with deliberate cruelty and inflicted life-altering injuries to her husband.
“We live in a society of law, and not of men. And we can’t act upon our emotions,” O’Keefe said. “We have to let the court system, the justice system, do its job.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney LaVater Massie-Banks asked the judge to hand down a sentence of two years in prison — plus three years’ supervised release.
Massie-Banks walked the judge through a PowerPoint presentation that she stated provided additional context about what led up to the shooting and played body camera video of the standoff in court.
Weems initially learned of the allegations against her husband three days before the shooting, stayed the night with him in the hotel and left and came back. She shot him in the neck and left leg, shattering his femur, Massie-Banks said.
“The government believes that additional incarceration is appropriate in this case based on the nature of the offense,” said Massie-Banks, who acknowledged that Weems’ husband “definitely comes off as an unsympathetic victim.”
But Tony Garcia, Weems’ attorney, said his client was torn at first between supporting her husband and the children who attended the day care.
On the morning of the shooting, Garcia said, the mother of a boy who went to the day care confronted his client in the parking lot.
Weems, he said, had checked security cameras inside the business and did not see anything. But that’s when she realized there were no cameras in a van that her husband used to pick up and drop off children at school. “That’s when it tipped,” Garcia said, “that she knew he was lying.”
Garcia said his client was overcome with emotions that he did not think was “fair for me to put an adjective on.” She has provided information to the Baltimore County Police Department and volunteered to testify against him at trial.
“Miss Weems is authentic. She is what you see,” Garcia said. “She was under the crushing guilt of feeling that she had let those children down.”
He asked the judge to impose a sentence that would have allowed his client to immediately be released from custody.
Supporters filled the gallery of a courtroom inside the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse, with some wearing buttons or T-shirts with her picture on them that read, “Free Shanteari.” Others watched the sentencing hearing through video conferencing.
Four people spoke on behalf of Weems and described her a mild-mannered, protective and successful woman who gave back to those who were less fortunate in the community.
“I hope that you take her love, care, patience and protection towards children into consideration,” Sean Stinnett, who stated that he has known Weems for more than 32 years, told the judge.
Her husband, James Weems Jr., 57, of Randallstown, has since been indicted in Baltimore County Circuit Court on charges including sexual abuse of a minor, rape and assault. Police allege he sexually abused four children going back to 2020.
He’s set to stand trial on May 22, according to online court records.