MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee woman prosecutors said was "driving and smoking marijuana" before a fatal crash in October of 2018 has been sentenced to prison. Zion Lewis, a senior at Vincent High School, died at the scene -- and prosecutors said Kiara Wilkins shouldn't have even been behind the wheel, because she did not have a valid license.
The crash happened on Oct. 6, 2018 at Teutonia and Silver Spring Drive.
Wilkins, 18, in December of 2018 pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly operating while suspended, causing death. In court on Thursday, Feb. 14, Wilkins was sentenced to serve three years in prison and three years extended supervision, with credit for 132 days time served. The court ordered she pay more than $30,000 in restitution, and a restitution hearing was scheduled for Feb. 19.
Lewis' mother was outraged by the sentence, telling the judge she was "appalled."
"We're talking about three years. Three years? Three years for my baby's life?" said LuCretia Lewis. "I will never, ever see her again. This is not fair! My baby is dead, and she will never come back."
Wilkins' attorney asked that she be given probation instead of prison time.
"Her grieving that she's done for her friend has all been done in jail. She tells me that the friend comes to her in her dreams," said Patrick Flanagan, Wilkins' attorney.
A remorseful Wilkins asked for forgiveness.
"I hope her family can find it deep in their hearts to forgive me. I truly apologize. It was an accident. She was my friend," said Wilkins.
Court records show the state reserved the right to bring additional charges against Wilkins pending "toxicological analysis of the defendant's blood," but that didn't happen. Toxicology reports showed she had marijuana in her system, but she only faced the one charge.
"This could've been charged as a Class D felony. A Class D felony is punishable up to 25 years in prison," said Judge Janet Protasiewicz.
The judge handed down the maximum sentence based on the charges.
"Ms. Wilkins, I think your remorse is genuine, but I think it would be extremely diminishing to place you on probation and I just can't do that," the judge said.
Kent Lovern, the chief deputy district attorney, issued this statement:
"As to the resolution of the case, I can tell you we had extensive conversations with the victim’s mother, as we do with all families in homicide cases, prior to making any plea agreement. After consulting with any victim, once we make a plea agreement with a defendant, we are bound by the terms of that agreement, understanding that a victim’s feelings about that agreement may understandably change at a later point in time."
Wilkins' mother, LuCretia Lewis, issued this statement:
"My name is LuCretia Lewis and I am the mother of Zion C. Lewis, who was killed in a car crash on October 6th, 2018. I was appalled at the sentence Kiara Alexandria Wilkins received today. Not only was she driving at such a high rate of speed where you can clearly see because there's video of the crash, but she wasn't even charged with reckless driving. In fact, due to the fact that she didn't have license this even helped her. When I first saw the charge of driving with suspended license causing death, I called the DA. I was able to speak with Natalie Nygun V/W specialist. I told her I was unhappy with the charge and needed to speak to the district attorney. He never responded but after one of Kiara's bail hearings he did meet with me. He told me that after he got a copy of the toxicology report, he would definitely upgrade the charges if anything was found in her system. When I returned to court, the district attorney was accepting a plea agreement that I had no say so in. I was never informed that she would be out of prison in 3 years after taking the life of my daughter while she was under the influence and speeding. My daughter's life meant nothing to him because she was a little black girl in Milwaukee. I can almost guarantee if the color of her skin was different, the entire case would have been handled differently! Even the judge was shocked by the minimal charges the district attorney accepted and now her hands were tied when this case should have been a class d felony with the possibility of 25 years. I am in anguish and feel victimized over again and I feel in 2019 it is a shame that the color of my skin made my daughter's life so unimportant! When I saw the coverage of the case on the news, it stated that he had spoken to the mother a numerous amount of times and I was in agreement. This is another untruth coming from his office. I don't know what can be done now but, I would greatly appreciate somebody somewhere looking into this travesty. "
According to the criminal complaint in this case, police and paramedics were dispatched to the intersection of Teutonia and Silver Spring shortly before 8 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2018 for a crash involving a single vehicle with six people inside. Five were able to get out on their own. They were taken to a hospital for treatment.
A sixth person, identified as Zion Lewis, had to be extricated from the vehicle and died at the scene from "blunt force injuries consistent with a violent car crash." Family members said the Vincent High School senior had a bright future.
"We had big plans for her. She was a sweet girl, fun-loving. Very pretty. She should have been a model. We wanted her to be a model," said Latrina Cooper, Zion's aunt.
According to the criminal complaint, investigating officers "observed tire marks, gouges and debris in the roadway." Officers surmised the car was traveling southbound on Teutonia, but the driver lost control halfway through the intersection at Silver Spring. The car then "barrel-rolled and left the roadway, striking a brick wall, two trees and a utility pole."
Investigators recovered surveillance video which showed the car "southbound on Teutonia at a high rate of speed." It was apparently passing cars on the right in the bicycle lane before the driver lost control.
The posted speed limit at the intersection was noted at 35 miles per hour.
When officers interviewed Wilkins, she indicated she was driving the car at the time of the crash. Wilkins told officers "she has no driver's license" and "smoked marijuana" earlier in the day.
When her passengers were questioned by police, they confirmed Wilkins was driving -- and at least two of them said Wilkins was "driving and smoking marijuana."