Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty, who advised Officer Gregory Rhoden to charge 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot with a felony, has some explaining to do. Just days after doling out a stiff charge for Kiera, Glotfelty decided not to bring any charges against White 13-year-old Taylor Richardson, who mistakenly killed his younger brother with a BB gun, because she deemed his case was a “tragic accident.”
When it broke last week that Kiera would be expelled from Bartow High School and tried as an adult for experimenting with toilet bowl cleaner, aluminum, and an 8-ounce water bottle, Kiera’s plight immediately gripped the nation.
Watch Kiera’s case here:
In addition, the fact that her own principal and peers could vouch for her character as a good-natured honors student, made the authorities’ decision to mete out the harsh punishment even more heartless.
But the latest discovery in the Kiera’s case revives — in real time — just how dangerous racism is in the criminal justice system.
Case in point, consider the deliberations and actions of Assistant Attorney Glotfelty.
When Officer Rhoden called Glotfelty to advise him on how he should charge Wilmot in the botched science experiment case, according to the police report, Rhoden noted:
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).
Indeed, Wilmot would be arrested at the school and charged with the aforementioned charges. Then to add insult to injury, the teen was reportedly expelled from Bartow High; she is currently completing her education through an “expulsion program.”
Now let’s consider the very sad case of Richardson.
On March 13th, Richardson and his fourth-grade brother, Skyler (pictured), were reportedly playing with BB guns, when Taylor’s BB gun went off.
The BB reportedly entered Skyler’s head just above his right ear and traveled across his skull to the left side.
Even though Skyler would be flown to Tampa’s Joseph’s Hospital, he would die a week later.
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.
Now, let’s reconsider the Wilmot case.
[Kiera] is accused of mixing household chemicals in a tiny 8-ounce water bottle, causing the top to pop off, followed by billowing smoke in an small explosion.
The disturbance prompted Assistant Principal Dan Durham to alert authorities. Soon after, both Principal Ron Pritchard and Kiera’s peerswent on record to say that Wilmot made a mistake and did not intend to harm anyone. According to Pritchard, “She has never been in trouble before. Ever.”
Wilmot’s experiment DID NOT hurt anyone nor did it damage school property.
In order to gain further insight in to Glotfelty’s seemingly unequal treatment of both Richardson’s and Wilmot’s cases, I reached out to the attorney’s office for comment. Her spokesman, Chief Assistant State Attorney Brian Haas, responded, via phone, with the following:
“Our office has not made any filing decisions on that case yet, so there have not been any charges brought yet in that case, it’s still under review.
“She’s not been charged.
“Just because someone, just because there’s a police report done on someone, that doesn’t mean that they are charged officially in court of any crime.
“There’s a different standard between what is done in the police report and what will be done in court.”
Even though I made it clear that I fully understand that there is a difference between what charges are brought in the police report and what official charges are actually brought in court, Haas would not answer our questions as to why Glotfelty’s initial determination was to drop Richardson’s charges because that instance was deemed a “tragic accident” yet she determined that Kiera should be charged with what amounts to a felony.
When I asked if Haas was discounting the validity of the police report, which specifically states that Glotfelty advised that the aforementioned charges be brought against Kiera, he conceded that he was not discounting it and that he had no further comment, ending with, “This case has not been determined to be prosecuted at this point. It’s under review in our office. There hasn’t been not any adult charges in adult court readied. It’s being reviewed by our juvenile division and we hope to have a decision very soon on the resolution of this case.
Unsatisfied, I asked Managing Attorney of Guster Law Firm Eric L. Welch Guster to provide his professional insight on the issue:
“From the information presented, I do not see how the District Attorney can justify the charge against Kiera when compared to the case of the 13 year old who shot his brother with a BB gun,” Attorney Guster said. “Looking at the case with the BB gun death, the District Attorney’s office stated, ‘It is our opinion that this case can only be seen as a tragic accident.”
“Mind you, he was playing with a gun that shoots projectiles. The same seems true for Kiera and her science experiment. That experiment was an accident.
“The 13-year-old brother killed someone, who happened to be his brother. Kiera did not kill nor harm anyone when she was experimenting with her project. Although she should not have mixed the chemicals, it was an accident WITHOUT TRAGEDY and she is being charged with felonies.”
When asked how these charges will affect Kiera’s life, Attorney Guster said:
“As a criminal defense lawyer, I have seen many cases where Black children have been arrested in the same situation where White children would not be arrested and have their parents called to pick them up and take them home. This incident is very similar.
“At the most severe point, Kiera could have been made to go to detention if she did something wrong but definitely not arrested for a science experiment.
“However, she was arrested and charged with adult felonies, which means the arrest will follow her for the remainder of her life.
“Even if the case is dismissed, background checks will still see the arrest, which could prevent this stellar student from attending the college of her choice, living in the apartment complex that she chooses, or getting the job she is qualified for.”
According to Haas, they are still determining whether to go forward in Kiera’s case or drop the charges as they did in the Richardson case. If you are moved by Kiera’s case and would like to put pressure on the Assistant State attorney’s office to do the right thing, send Glotfelty’s office a message here, call (863) 534-4800, or send her a letter at 255 N Broadway Ave. Bartow, FL 33830.