A Kansas City, Kan., woman whose speeding car hit and killed a teenager was sentenced Wednesday to five years and four months in prison.
Tamika Pledger, 41, a longtime community activist and sometimes candidate for political office, was sentenced in Wyandotte County District Court where a jury in May found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 16-year-old Tierra Smith.
Pledger was also found guilty of three counts of aggravated battery for hitting and seriously injuring three other teens.
District Judge Mike Russell denied Pledger’s request for probation and imposed a sentence that was only four months short of the maximum he could have imposed.
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The judge also denied her request to remain free on bond while she pursues an appeal and she was taken into custody.
Tierra was among a group of teens standing in the street when Pledger’s car crested a steep hill at 14th Street and Troup Avenue in Kansas City, Kan., and hit them on Jan. 30, 2015.
Her car was traveling at more than 30 mph over the posted 20 mph speed limit, according to trial evidence presented by prosecutors.
Pledger denied speeding and said that the brakes on her car did not work properly. Another prosecution witness testified that there was nothing wrong with the brakes on her car.
On the day of the incident, a teen relative called Pledger to tell her that other girls were “trying to jump me” and asked Pledger to come.
Pledger testified that she drove to the scene and crested the hill to see two vehicles in the middle of the road. Skid marks showed that she veered into the location where a street fight was taking place, according to testimony.
On Wednesday, friends and relatives of Pledger pointed out that many others bore responsibility for what happened that day.
A group of teens and young adults had gone first to Wyandotte High School and then to 14th and Troup to beat up Pledger’s relative.
They said Pledger was only trying to help a family member had no idea the teens were in the street when her car came over the hill.
Relatives of Tierra and the injured teens asked Russell to impose the maximum sentence on Pledger and told the judge that she had never shown remorse or taken responsibility for her own actions.
“She just needs to go away so we can call start moving on,” said Tierra’s mother, Marla Smith.
Special Prosecutor James Spies also requested the maximum sentence.
Two of the teens injured in the incident are sisters and both have had to give up athletic activities because of the seriousness of the injuries. Spies read a statement from one of them, Essence Robinson, in which she said she forgave Pledger.
Pledger asked the judge to place her on probation and said she would have never hurt anyone intentionally or risked anyone’s life if she knew her car was unsafe.
“Everyone needs to heal and move on,” she said.
The judge said he did not condone the actions of others that contributed to the fatal crash, but said their actions were not what he had to consider Wednesday.
He told Pledger that she has continued to blame others for what happened and denied responsibility.
“The consequences of your actions resulted in the death of Tierra Smith and serious injuries to three others,” he said.