KINGMAN – Raitasha Antoinette Williams-Gardner, charged with multiple felonies in connection with an alleged carjacking of a Las Vegas Uber driver, had her plea agreement rejected by Judge Billy Sipe on Tuesday.
In the agreement, Williams-Gardner agreed to plead guilty to kidnapping as a non-dangerous felony, and aggravated assault as a non-dangerous felony. Based on that agreement, she would have served 7 ½ years in prison.
However, before he was willing to approve the plea agreement, the judge instructed the state to justify why the charges to which Williams-Gardner agreed to plead guilty were dropped to non-dangerous designations.
Sipe said while he realizes the criminal justice systems is basically “a culture of plea bargaining” due to the sheer case load of the court system, plea bargaining should be looked at differently for serious cases.
“Sometimes I kind of wonder to myself on some cases why the state reduces the charges just for the sake of plea bargaining when the defendant has committed a very serious crime,” Sipe said. “This is a very serious case.”
He noted the defendant’s “participation is much less than the co-defendant” but was still concerned about the seriousness of the case.
Williams-Gardner and co-defendant Aveyon Lashawn Nevitt are accused of carjacking a Las Vegas Uber driver and another passenger in a pool ride and ordering the driver to head toward Arizona in May.
According to law enforcement reports, the Uber passenger and driver were let out of the car just past Hoover Dam. The vehicle, at this point driven by Nevitt, later collided with a bus in the 900 block of West Beale Street. No one on the bus was injured. Nevitt is also alleged to have fired a handgun at a passing commercial vehicle while on U.S. 93, in addition to threatening the driver and passenger, and hitting the passenger on the head with the gun.
Prosecuting attorney Amy Gardner said the state felt the plea agreement was appropriate because Williams-Gardner would spend “an appropriate length of time in the department of corrections,” also taking into consideration Williams-Gardner’s lack of criminal history.
She also said the plea agreement allowed her to encompass more than one of the victims, which holds the defendant accountable for her actions in regards to both.
Robin Puchek, representing the defendant, said he believed his client is “about one-tenth as culpable as the co-defendant.” He also said he did not believe, and cited a lack of evidence to support, that his client was aware of the plan to carjack the vehicle. He said she was easily manipulated and also called attention to Williams-Gardner’s family showing strong support throughout the court proceedings.
He also noted his belief the defendant had a colorable claim of duress and necessity.
Sipe said he was aware of Williams-Gardner’s age, 19, family support, her two children, her completion of high school and her less-substantial involvement when compared to co-defendant Nevitt.
“The circumstances of the facts of this case are a lot more serious than the normal kidnapping and aggravated assault cases we see on a daily basis,” the judge said. “This is a very violent crime that occurred, and I’m simply not willing to accept any resolution where the dangerous offenses are being withdrawn. Because this is a dangerous offense, if the defendant gets convicted or pleads guilty, then she should be sentenced accordingly. She should not be sentenced on non-dangerous offenses.”
He then rejected the terms of the plea agreement. Williams-Gardner expressed her interest in having her case assigned to a different judge, and Judge Derek Carlisle is set to reassign the case to a different division.