Teen driver seeks YO status

Published 4:55 am Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Girl charged in death of WSNMS student

The driver in the fatal hit-and-run death of a W.S. Neal middle school student in February has applied for youthful offender status in the case.

Donnavia Williams, 17, and her mother, Jennifer, were indicted in April by the Escambia County grand jury in the death of 12-year-old Devon Spencer.

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Spencer and a friend were walking to school from a neighboring apartment complex when family said the boys were hit from behind on Thurs., Feb. 11. The friend suffered minor injuries, while Spencer suffered significant head trauma and a host of other injuries. Spencer later died from his injuries at Sacred Heart Hospital’s trauma unit.

The duo pleaded not guilty in June after Miss Williams, who at the time was a W.S. Neal senior and the driver of the vehicle, was charged with manslaughter, a Class B felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison; leaving the scene of an accident with injuries; failure to report an accident with injuries and assault II, each a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She has remained free after being released from the Escambia County Detention Center on a $150,000 bond.

Mrs. Williams is charged with failure to report an accident with injuries and was released on a $25,000 bond. She allegedly told her daughter to continue to school and not report the accident.

Alabama’s program allows a defendant younger than 21 – like Miss Williams – who is facing a criminal charge to seek youthful offender status. Being granted this status can mean that the individual receives a reduction in penalties and can sometimes result in a person not acquiring a criminal record. The act seeks to help young offenders avoid the negative consequences and stigma of having a criminal record.

If granted “YO” status, the court may order the defendant to be arraigned as a youthful offender and that no further action be made on the information or indictment. If the defendant is not approved for youthful offender status, the court can order that indictment or information be filed and the individual can be tried as an adult.

Williams’ hearing, which was scheduled for Monday, was continued, Escambia County District Attorney Steve Billy said.

“(The state) continued it because we wanted to present some evidence opposing YO treatment,” Billy said of the proceedings.

No new date has been set, he said.