Prosecutor Behind Kiera Wilmot Arrest Filed No Charges For White Teen Who Killed Little Brother
It turns out that Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty does not prosecute juveniles equally.
On Monday, April 23, Glotfelty told the Barlow Police Department to charge 16-year-old high school honors student Kiera Wilmot with two felonies for conducting a botched science experiment. Wilmot mixed a household toilet cleaner with aluminum in an 8 oz. plastic bottle, causing the top to pop and some smoke to rise. The police report states that Wilmot was charged with two felonies at the behest of Glotfelty:
I THEN CONTACTED ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY TAMMY GLOTFELTY VIA TELEPHONE. I ADVISED A.S.A GLOTFELTY OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE AND SHE ADVISED THIS OFFICER TO FILE THE CHARGES OF, POSSESSING OR DISCHARGING WEAPONS OR FIREARMS AT A SCHOOL SPONSORED EVENT OR ON SCHOOL PROPERTY F.S.S. 790.115 (1) AND MAKING, POSSESSING, THROWING, PROJECTING, PLACING, OR DISCHARGING ANY DESTRUCTIVE DEVICE F.S.S. 790.161 (A).
This makes Glotfelty sound like a hard-ass who over-prosecutes. Yet just two days later, Glotfelty announced that 13-year-old Taylor Richardson would not face charges for shooting and killing his 10-year-old brother, Skyler, with a BB gun.
In a letter to the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, Glotfelty wrote, “Our office has considered this case, keeping in mind that (Taylor) is 13 years of age and is a student at Roosevelt Academy.”
“After a thorough review of the facts, available to our office at this time, it is our opinion that this case can only be seen as a tragic accident,” added Glotfelty.
Tayler and Skyler were shooting what they believed were empty BB guns at one another. However, Taylor’s gun had a BB in it, which struck Skyler in the head while they were playing. Skyler died a week later.
I agree with Glotfelty’s choice not to prosecute Taylor Richardson for what was clearly an accident. But her decision is telling when compared with the harsh treatment dished out to Kiera Wilmot, whose misguided science experiment caused no harm or damage to anyone or anything.
Glotfelty was clear that she took 13-year-old Taylor’s age into account when deciding whether to prosecute. In stark contrast, 16-year-old Kiera is being charged as an adult, which raises the question: Why aren’t Kiera’s actions viewed through the same lens of childhood innocence and naiveté as Taylor’s?
Furthermore, young Skyler died on March 20, one week after he was shot in the head by his brother. That means Glotfelty spent over a month examining the case before making a determination about whether to prosecute Taylor. Conversely, Kiera’s treatment was quite the opposite. As soon as Glotfelty received word from police about Kiera’s actions, she wasted no time deciding to prosecute to fullest extent of the law.
The Polk County Attorney’s Office would not respond to requests for comment because they say the case is still under investigation.
So, what explains the disparity? Well, the most glaring distinction between Kiera and Taylor (aside from three years in age) is their race: Kiera is black and Taylor is white.
Is Glotfelty racist? I don’t know, but her actions are in keeping with the overall racial disparities that plague the criminal justice system and school-to-prison pipeline.
In an excellent primer, the Center for American Progress explains the stats behind the disparity:
According to the latest data, which was collected from schools nationwide during the 2009-2010 academic year, black students were three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white classmates. What’s more, African Americans made up 46 percentof those students who were suspended more than once. During the 2009-2010 school year, 39 percent of all expulsions were of black students even though they represented only 18 percent of enrolled students at sampled schools. These racial disparities in suspension and expulsion rates cannot be explained, as some contend, by socioeconomic status or by higher rates of misbehavior among students of color. Multiple studies confirm that students of color receive harsher consequences than their white peers for committing the same offenses.
Kiera Wilmot has been expelled from Polk County Schools and will have to complete her education in an expulsion program. There’s no way to know if a white teen girl would have been treated more leniently for doing what Kiera did, but based on the data, a white girl would have been far less likely to be expelled, let alone arrested and cuffed at school:
When it comes to being arrested in school, students of color are once again at disproportionately higher risk. According to the data released this week, 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-2010 school year. Black or Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments ranging from suspensions to arrests are causing high numbers of youth of color to come into contact with the juvenile justice system at ever-earlier ages.
Kiera Wilmot’s record is now stained with an arrest and two felony charges. This could impact the rest of her life if she is convicted. I only wish Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty would offer Kiera Wilmot the same compassion she gave Taylor Richardson.
Tammy Glotfelty works for the Florida State Attorney’s Office in Bartow, which can be reached at:
Adress: 255 N Broadway Ave Bartow, FL 33830
Phone: (863) 534-4800
Let’s flood them with calls, letters and messages demanding they drop the charges against Kiera Wilmot.