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KCK community activist who hit, killed teen found guilty on all counts

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A woman who struck and killed one teen and injured three others with her car in January 2015 was found guilty on all charges Thursday.

Tamika Pledger's booking photo taken on June 8, when she was jailed for contempt of court.

Tamika Pledger's booking photo taken on June 8, when she was jailed for contempt of court.

Tamika Pledger, 41, was found guilty in Wyandotte County Court of one count of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of reckless aggravated battery for hitting those four teenagers with her car in the 1300 block of Troup Avenue.

According to FOX 4's John Pepitone who was in the courtroom, after the verdict was read there were disruptions and Pledger's son was taken into custody. Pledger also had to be restrained by sheriff's deputies. She was sobbing after the verdict.

Witnesses told police the four teens were among a bigger group of students who had gathered near the street to watch a fight that reportedly involved Pledger's niece. Pledger said she was on her way to break up the fight when she crashed into the teens.

Tierra Smith

The victims included 16-year-old Tierra Smith, who was killed, a then-17-year-old boy who suffered a broken leg; Essence Robinson, who was 16-years old at the time, and Robinson's then 14-year-old sister, Brandi Glover.

Essence Robinson was at the courthouse when the verdict came down.

"I actually did not want to be in the courtroom because I did not know how I would react, but I was relieved when they told me she was guilty being that she's been out two years just causing trouble. It's just like I'm relieved now," said Essence.

Essence Robinson, one of the victims, reacts to the verdict.

Police estimate Pledger was driving at least 55 mph in a 20 mph zone when her silver Mercedes Benz slammed into the four teens.

“I don't believe she intentionally hit four kids but I do know that she was speeding and that's the reason they have speed limits, stuff like this," Essence said.

When FOX 4's John Pepitone asked Essence if Tamika Pledger should serve prison time, Essence thought of Tierra.

"I don't wish prison on anyone but as far as this case, I do believe Tamika should do her time for what she did. She did kill Tierra and Tierra did not deserve to be dead," Essence said.

James Spies, the attorney chosen to prosecute the case, said families wondered if this day would ever come.

James Spies, the prosecutor in the Tamika Pledger case.

"This is a case that has dragged on for nearly two-and-a-half years. Delay after delay. I think the families questioned whether it would actually ever go to trial. There was a lot of, I'd say skepticism that it would ever get there," he said. "It represents the first step in closure," Spies said.

Spies said the prosecution team asked that her bond be increased to $100,000 because Pledger is now a flight risk. Her maximum sentence is 68 months, or about 5 1/2 years.

 

Pledger has been outspoken about the charges against her and written letters and filed motions to get the charges dropped. She faced additional trouble and jail time after the Wyandotte County Prosecutor's Office played a phone conversation Pledger had with a friend. Prosecutors said that despite being ordered to have no contact with the teens she's accused of hitting, Pledger tried to convince them to advocate that charges against her be dropped.

She allegedly told the friend in the conversation:

"What I really want to do is, if I don't get out of here, I need you guys to go on the Plan B, Plan C. My Plan B and C is to get with the family and the media... all you guys together and say, 'We will not press charges on her. We know it was an accident. We don't know why she's still in there. We're asking for them to drop the charges and let her go.'"

1300 block of Troup

Months after the crash, Pledger held a news conference where she offered condolences to 17-year-old Tierra Smith’s family. She was sentenced to six days in jail for contempt.

At the time of the deadly crash, Pledger had recently filed for a seat on the Board of Commissioners of the Unified Government of Wyandotte and KCK, which was formerly held by Mayor Mark Holland.

Look for updates on FOX 4 newscasts, fox4kc.com app and website and our FOX 4 Kansas City Facebook page.

On Sunday, Pledger posted a video to YouTube, which hints at what her defense team is likely to argue at trial.