York shooting victim's parents convince judge to nix plea deal
With the impassioned words of two anguished parents fresh in his ears, a York County judge refused to approve a proposed plea agreement for a York City teen accused of shooting a young man in the head nearly two years ago.
"I know she was put up to it," Edward McDowell told presiding Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock in court on Thursday, Nov. 9.
But alleged shooter Hydiea Banks won't tell detectives who was behind the apparent "revenge plot," he said, adding the teen has supposedly boasted on social media that she could do 10 years in prison and still be young when she got out.
"So she comes home a legend because she kept her mouth shut," McDowell said with obvious frustration. "She's going to be a well-known street gangster."
Banks smiled and smirked throughout the hearing and — unlike her defense attorney — appeared unconcerned when the judge trashed her plea deal. Her trial is now tentatively scheduled for the January trial term.
Remorseless? McDowell and other family members of the victim said Banks has shown no remorse, despite the fact that shooting victim Shyhiem McDowell was her platonic friend. She even slept over at his house the night before he was shot, they said.
Under oath, McDowell told the judge that Banks and "Parkway" people close to her were paid to kill his son and that Banks was chosen to carry out the hit. But Banks has been unwilling to name her alleged co-conspirators, he said.
"They had a bounty on my son's head," McDowell said, because certain people wrongly believed Shyhiem was involved in a 2015 homicide.
York City Police say Banks was 16 years old when she shot Shyhiem in the head Jan. 9, 2016, behind a home in the 300 block of Girard Avenue.
Now 18, she remains in York County Prison without bail, charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault.
The agreement: At Thursday's hearing, chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch told Trebilcock that he and defense attorney Lori Yost agreed Banks would plead guilty to aggravated assault for a sentence of eight to 16 years in state prison, and that the attempted murder charge against her would be dropped.
Shyhiem's family learned of the proposed agreement minutes before the hearing began and demanded they be allowed to address the judge prior to him approving the proposed plea deal.
"This is not an easy case," Maisch told the judge, saying his office weighed many factors before making the plea offer. "And we understand we can't make everyone happy."
Generally, crime victims and their family members give oral impact statements after guilty pleas are accepted. But Trebilcock agreed to hear what the family had to say first.
Victim's mother speaks: "My son is never going to be the same," a tearful Shelaneia Sullivan told the judge. " His life is only worth eight years? ... My son did nothing to deserve this."
Had he died, prosecutors wouldn't have offered such a deal to Banks, Sullivan said, adding she feels her son is being punished "because he lived."
Shyhiem was 18 when he was shot and is now 20 years old.
McDowell said he and Shyhiem's family would support Banks' plea agreement if she told authorities who else was involved.
"Why give her a deal when she hasn't told anything?" he asked.
After listening to Shyhiem's parents, Trebilcock said he understands the pain and misplaced guilt family members feel when a loved one is left impaired for life by a crime or accident. He's felt it too, he said.
'We're done': The judge then told Banks that if she wanted him to approve her plea agreement, she had to tell him exactly what happened, leaving nothing out.
He asked what she'd done and she said she shot Shyhiem.
Trebilcock then asked where Banks obtained the gun.
"I don't know," she replied.
"We're done," the judge said, then told Banks that "you're trying to play cute with me."
"That was the greatest gift," McDowell later said of Trebilcock's decision.
Yost, the defense attorney, did not acknowledge a reporter's questions as she left Trebilcock's courtroom. Maisch declined comment.
The co-defendant: Banks' stepfather, Anthony Donnell Johnson, 49, of York City, remains charged with conspiracy to commit robbery in Shyhiem's shooting, despite the fact that the victim's family doesn't believe robbery was the true motive.
In April, Johnson was indicted in federal court on charges of robbery and using a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence for his alleged role in Shyhiem's attack.
He previously told police his stepdaughter took Shyhiem's cellphone during the fatal encounter.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.