I-64 teen pleads guilty
The 16-year-old Crozet boy charged with 15 counts in connection with the March 27 shooting spree that closed down Interstate 64 pleaded guilty today to eight charges in Charlottesville Albemarle Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Handcuffed, shackled, and wearing the standard issue blue juvenile detention garb, the teen sat alone in front of the court and looked down while his attorney, Dana Slater, conferred with Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Darby Lowe, pictured left. His mother watched him from the front bench, and supporters filled the first two rows.
The youth pleaded guilty to five counts of malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle, two counts of shooting into occupied dwellings on Greenwood Station and Dry Bridge roads, and one count of firing from a vehicle on Miller School Road.
"He has accepted responsibility for his actions," Lowe told Judge Susan Whitlock. The prosecutor asked for a deferred disposition on the three non-I-64 charges pending a psychiatric evaluation, good behavior, and continued cooperation with the Commonwealth.
It's the latter that should give his alleged partner in crime, Batesville resident Slade Woodson, 19, pause. Woodson's attorney, Public Defender Jim Hingeley, was present in juvenile court today, and Woodson has a preliminary hearing scheduled May 15. At worst, the 16-year-old is looking at detention until his 21st birthday, while Woodson's 15 felonies in Albemarle and four in Waynesboro could put him away for the rest of his life.
The Commonwealth dropped seven other charges against the 16-year-old, who acknowledged being present at all the incidents, but "not being the shooter in every instance," says Lowe.
"The young man and his family believe in being truthful," said Slater, explaining why the boy took a plea agreement. "This young man is very aware of the seriousness of the statutes, and he's very aware of the fear and concern of the citizens."
The boy will be back in court May 28. "Sentencing will be decided by the judge," said Lowe. She declined to comment about what sort of sentencing she'd like to see.
"I'm glad he pled guilty," said Lowe. "He accepted responsibility, and the victims don't have to testify," although they will have a chance to make impact statements.
Tim Fitzgerald, driving his red Ford Explorer on I-64 that night, is one of those victims, and he sat in the back of the court today. Afterward, he told reporters that at first wasn't sure he wanted the teen to be tried as a juvenile rather than an adult, but after seeing him in court, realized he was just a kid.