Cherry Payton, 43, has been sentenced to serve 30 years in prison for failing to prevent her daughter’s sexual abuse, the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office said in a Friday release.
Payton allowed her 13-year-old daughter to be married to a 47-year-old man Steven Carty, based on their religious practices. She was arrested by the Sheriff’s Office deputies in 2017.
Both Payton and her co-defendant Carty identify as Hebrew Israelites, African Americans who believe they are descendants of ancient Israelites.
Carty was sentenced to 22 years in prison in March.
The situation came to light when the then 14-year-old child victim revealed during a routine doctor’s visit that she was married and sexually active. Police were notified on June 5, 2017, by Child Protective Services.
The defendant, who was present during the medical visit, claimed the child was married with her consent.
“Every child deserves to feel safe with their mother and this child wasn’t,” said lead prosecutor Charann Thompson. “As the nation prepares to celebrate Mother’s Day, I am reminded that not every child has a mother who will protect them. But I take solace in this jury’s verdict, because it says that there’s a consequence awaiting mothers who fail to protect as profoundly as Cherry Payton did.”
The jury also heard evidence that years earlier, Payton had sexually abused the child herself, at that time under the guise of a different religion, the DA’s office said.
“Although the child victim in this case was failed by her mother time and time again, she was surrounded in the courtroom by a strong support system,” said prosecutor Jessica Ramos. “We are grateful to her adoptive mother, her court advocate, her CASA, and the caseworkers from Child Protective Services that supported the child throughout this investigation and trial.”
Now 19 years old, the girl is living with an adoptive family.
Although a person must be 18 years of age to marry in Texas, there are exceptions that permit minors of least 16 to marry under certain conditions. The child in this case was young for any exceptions to apply.
Payton was tried in the 400th District Court before Presiding Judge Tameika Carter. Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child is a first-degree felony punishable by 25 to 99 years, or life, in prison with no parole eligibility. The offense also requires lifetime registration as a sex offender.