He killed five young people on a South Florida road. His sentence is a ‘slap in our face,’ family says

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.

If given the chance, the sister of one of five young friends killed in a horrific 2013 two-car crash has one thing to say to the killer: You are not forgiven.

Jabari Kemp took a plea deal Friday. His punishment: five years behind bars, time already served.

“It’s like he’s getting a slap on the wrist, and it’s a slap in our face,” said Kenya Oliver-Joseph said. “It’s not fair.”

Kenya Oliver-Joseph, whose 17-year-old sister Christina died in the Riviera Beach wreck, said she was surprised to hear the case was over — and with a lenient punishment no less.

None of the victims’ loved ones were there to see the plea. They said they didn’t know it was happening. The prosecutor told the judge the families were too distraught about the plea and ”they want nothing to do with the criminal justice system, nothing.”

Relatives reached by the South Florida Sun Sentinel said they would have been in court or tuned in via Zoom to voice their objections, had they known about the hearing.

Oliver-Joseph says she would have told Kemp: “You didn’t show sympathy, you didn’t say sorry, you didn’t shed a tear until the day you got sentenced [in 2015]. That’s why I can’t forgive you.”

“I have no say so, but that was my granddaughter,” said Linda Steward, of Palm Beach Gardens, grandmother of Shonteria Grimsley, who died at age 17. “I’m not pleased at all. I still have my granddaughter’s number in my phone and her last text. Of course I would have been there.”

Even Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Daliah Weiss questioned the terms: “I want to understand why I should accept a plea like this.”

On the night of April 13, 2013, Kemp, then 21, drove at speeds up to 128 mph and ran a red light at the bottom of the north Interstate 95 off-ramp at Blue Heron Boulevard. Kemp’s sporty Mercedes slammed into a Lexus driving east on Blue Heron.

The crash was so powerful that four of the five occupants of the Lexus were ejected, authorities said.

Killed instantly were the Lexus driver, Jason Mahlung, 21; and passengers Makita Campbell, 14; Orane Cummings, 22; Grimsley; and Oliver-Joseph. They died from traumatic injuries, including crushed internal organs, broken bones and severed limbs.

One of the prosecution's exhibits shows the five victims of the 2013 Riviera Beach crash that Jabari Kemp was found guilty of Wednesday, June 24, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) ORG XMIT: 1532443

One of the prosecution’s exhibits shows the five victims of the 2013 Riviera Beach crash that Jabari Kemp was found guilty of Wednesday, June 24, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) ORG XMIT: 1532443 (Lannis Waters / Lannis Waters)

Assistant State Attorney Judith Arco said she was at a disadvantage because the appeals court in 2019 tossed critical evidence needed to overcome Kemp’s defense. He claimed he didn’t apply the brakes because he had fainted behind the wheel — while the prosecution argued he was conscious and reckless.

“Not that we couldn’t prove it without it, but it would be very difficult without that scientific evidence and our experts,” the prosecutor explained.

The appellate court, in a 2-1 split opinion, said it had been a mistake for Kemp’s jury to hear a Florida Highway Patrol investigator’s opinion that Kemp applied his brakes, based solely on a visual observation of “crush damage” to the victims’ car and not “sufficient facts or data.”

Judge Cory J. Ciklin wrote that the court was aware of the impact of reversing Kemp’s conviction: “The gravity of our ruling does not escape us.”

Calling the crash an “unimaginable nightmare,” Ciklin wrote, “Whether or not the defendant applied his brakes before impact thus determining if Kemp was consciously in control of his vehicle, has become the crucial line of legal demarcation between a terrible accident on the one hand, and a culpable criminal act on the other.”

With the prosecutors unable to go before another jury, Judge Weiss approved the plea agreement.

“They are beyond, as you can imagine, upset,” Arco said of the victims’ families.

Guilty of five counts of vehicular homicide, Kemp received a 5-year sentence with credit for serving it, and was ordered to complete 10 years of probation with the first two years on house arrest with an ankle monitor. He also was ordered to do 100 hours of community service.

Each charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, so Weiss warned the former Miami-Dade County man that he risks returning to prison if he violates probation. Then the judge mentioned the innocent victims’ families.

Breaking News Alerts Newsletter

As it happens

Get updates on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as it happens with our free breaking news email alerts.

“I can’t even begin to imagine,” Weiss said. “There are no words to put to it what these folks have been through, and they are unhappy with this disposition and have opted out of participation in this hearing where of course the court would listen to everything they have to say. But they are not here to do that.”

Jabari Kemp appeared in a Palm Beach County courtroom on July 30, 2015.

Jabari Kemp appeared in a Palm Beach County courtroom on July 30, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

At his trial, Kemp testified that he had no warning before blacking out, something that had never before happened to him.

“I caused a mind-boggling collision which claimed the lives of five innocent people,” Kemp said before his original sentencing. “I did not intend or want to hurt anyone … I am so deeply sorry for this.”

As part of the deal approved Friday, Kemp’s driver’s license will be suspended for three years. And he’s under orders not to drive at all for the next 10 years.

“There are no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Weiss said.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

VIP Societe
Cocktails & Coworkers
Jackets Required
MILF Society
The List