Negotiations delay teen’s trial in Feb. abduction
The youngest of three teens accused of abducting and gang raping a Garden District woman in February began 11th-hour plea negotiations with prosecutors this week, as his trial was scheduled to begin.
Sheldon Jefferson, 16, was scheduled Tuesday morning to be the first of the trio to face a jury.
But Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli and defense attorney Morris Reed told the judge that they are hashing out a plea deal and asked for more time.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich shared his annoyance about the delay. He chided both sides for waiting until the last minute, and added that such last-ditch negotiations are “starting to happen with more regularity.”
He ordered Jefferson and his two co-defendants, 17-year-old Joseph Davis and 18-year-old Christopher Davis, back to court Wednesday morning, to either plead guilty or set a date for trial.
Each are charged with four counts of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery.
If convicted at trial, Christopher Davis will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole on each individual rape and the kidnapping charge, plus up to 99 years on the robbery. Because the other two are minors, federal law requires that they could one day become eligible for parole.
Jefferson was 15 on Feb. 4 when he and the two other teenagers allegedly approached a woman on Eighth Street and forced her at gunpoint into a nearby car.
They are accused of driving her around for an hour, stopping by ATMs to make her withdraw money, while repeatedly raping and beating her.
Then they took her back to her block, pushed her from a moving vehicle and stole her car, according to police.
Police circulated a photograph of Jefferson captured by a camera on one of the ATMs. His mother saw the photo, and took him to the police station to turn himself in.
Jefferson supposedly confessed to his role in the crime, and identified his two cohorts.
Christopher Davis reportedly made a more reluctant confession to having driven the car. Joseph Davis did not make a statement to police.
The teenagers requested that they be tried separately, and prosecutors chose to schedule Jefferson first.
As part of his plea agreement, Jefferson would likely be required to cooperate with prosecutors as they try the older two teens.