Wyandotte County prosecutors upgraded criminal charges Tuesday against Tamika Pledger, a local activist and political candidate, in connection with a Jan. 30 accident that injured four teenage pedestrians.
The new charge accuses her of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Tierra Smith, 17, a Raytown High School student who died a week after a car struck her and three other teens in the 1300 block of Troup Avenue in Kansas City, Kan.
The three other teens remain hospitalized. Pledger is facing three counts of reckless aggravated battery in connection with their injuries.
The crash occurred as a Mercedes-Benz sedan allegedly driven by Pledger crested a hill and slammed into the teens.
Prosecutors are not alleging that she intentionally hit the teens but contend that she drove in a reckless manner before the crash.
In court Tuesday, prosecutors also raised concerns about Pledger’s “inappropriate” alleged attempts to contact the victims’ families and dissuade them from pressing charges.
Assistant District Attorney Kristiane Bryant said Pledger’s actions “border on another crime itself.” Bryant played a recording of a conversation Pledger had with another person while in jail before posting bond.
In the conversation, Pledger spoke about “Plan B,” to have people contact the families on her behalf and get them to tell the district attorney they didn’t want to press charges. She also talked about using the media to pressure the district attorney to drop charges.
Pledger also expressed that the victims, who apparently had been involved in a fight or had gathered to watch one, should be prosecuted.
“It happened because of them, not me,” she said on the tape.
Bryant said that someone purporting to be Pledger had attempted to call the hospital and speak to the victims’ families and had someone go to the hospital to speak to them on her behalf.
The prosecutor said she had spoken to the teens’ parents, who were adamant about not wanting to be contacted.
Pledger said she did not know the rules pertaining to contacting the families, and she said it may have been her sister who called the hospital.
As a condition of Pledger’s bond, District Judge Robert Serra entered an order forbidding her from having any contact with the victims and witnesses or having anyone contact them on her behalf.
Pledger asked the judge if she would get “locked up” if someone who “hates me” attempts to call them and claims to be her.
“Just don’t you do it,” he said.
Pledger is a candidate for a seat on the Unified Government board in Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County. She has filed for the District 1 at large position that was vacated by Mark Holland when he was elected mayor in 2013.
A large number of Pledger’s supporters attended Tuesday’s court hearing.
In addition, Morris Letcher, a cousin of Tierra, attended on behalf of the girl’s family. He said her relatives were devastated by the loss of the “very vibrant” teen.
“It was something that never should have happened,” he said. “She was a typical teen. She liked to shop and post pictures on Facebook.”
Letcher said he also knows Pledger and believes that what happened was an accident, but he also believes she should be held accountable for what happened.
“We will let the justice system handle that,” he said.