By MYRA THRIFT. Staff Writer
On the second day of his rape and armed robbery trial Wednesday, Quaderiz Reid, 20, abruptly entered a guilty plea and the proceedings were halted.
After several hours spent huddling with his attorneys, John R. Thigpen Sr. and Alex Brown, and close family members, Reid opted to cop a plea to a lesser charge of aggravated assault with intent to rape in exchange for a 20-year sentence.
A guilty by jury verdict could have resulted in four life sentences, said Thigpen.
Reid was being tried for invading a Waycross home just more than a year ago and robbing two people at gunpoint while raping and sodomizing a 16-year-old girl there, also at the point of a pistol.
Chief Superior Court Judge Dewayne Gillis questioned Reid at length about the decision. At one point, the defendant told the judge he needed more time to mull the decision.
The defense team left the courtroom with Reid to further discuss the plea deal. After some time, Reid’s family members were called to join the meeting.
Reid and his attorneys eventually emerged ready to go forward with the deal agreed upon by the prosecution.
After the trial, Thigpen said that previously unknown evidence — police body camera videos that came to light in testimony Tuesday — weighed in the decision to plead. After Thigpen viewed the evidence, he said, he determined that it would be in his client’s best interest that the videos not be presented in open court before the jury.
“These body cams were worn by three of the first responders on the scene of the March 18, 2017 assault at the Eastover Drive home,” said Thigpen. “If I had known ahead of time, we may have gone in a different direction.”
It was at 11:58 a.m. Wednesday that the court acknowledged that Reid was withdrawing his not guilty plea and pleading guilty to aggravated assault with intent to rape.
Gillis accepted the plea and sentenced him to 20 years, eight of which will be served behind bars (with credit for time served, about 13 months) and 12 years probated. Reid, then, is likely to be in prison for less than seven years.
Gillis also took much time to explain to Reid all of the qualifications implicated in the plea deal after he is released from prison, including staying away from children, never to contact the victims in any way, shape or form, not possessing drugs or alcohol and not using a computer to visit websites with sexually explicit content.
Reid will also be subject to a Fourth Amendment waiver and cannot be in the possession of any weapons, firearms or ammunition, Judge Gillis said. He will have to register as a sex offender, obey a curfew and not be in the company of anyone under the age of 18 other than his 1-year-old daughter and his younger sibling.
“If you violate any one of these conditions your probation can be revoked and you would be returned to the penitentiary,” Gillis instructed.
At the end of the sentencing, Thigpen addressed the bench, “Just one more thing, Judge.” He informed Gillis that one of the witnesses from Tuesday’s session had threatened him after court dismissed Tuesday afternoon.
Gillis then called prosecution witness Brandon McMasters to stand before him.
“Why did you threaten Mr. Thigpen?” the judge asked.
“My attitude just got the better of me,” McMasters said.
“If I had heard you, I would have had you arrested,” said the judge. “Defense attorneys have a job to do and this court will not have them threatened. Based on your testimony Tuesday, your attitude will have you on the same bus as him (Reid). I will not have that man (pointing to Thigpen) or that lady (pointing to Alex Brown) or any other officer of this court threatened. These officers are doing their jobs and they will not be threatened or intimidated.”
The judge told McMasters if he attempted to carry out any threat against Thigpen, he would get “the short end of the deal.”