Travis Schriever Smith, the 38-year-old Palm Coast resident a jury in May found guilty of assaulting a Lyft driver in his car and by the side of a road in 2020, was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to three months in jail and six months on probation today by Circuit Judge Terence Perkins.
The jury had acquitted him of a felony burglary charge that could have exposed Smith to prison time.
Assistant State Attorney Tara Libby had asked for the maximum penalty possible for the first-degree misdemeanor, 364 days in jail or, alternately, 180 days in jail and six months on probation. Smith’s Attorney, Phil Bonamo, called that “disproportionate” to the offense and asked for no jail time–other than the 23 days Smith has served since the verdict–and immediate probation. Bonamo is contesting the $2,000 in restitution to the victim that the state is asking for, to pay for medical bills. That’s to be decided at a later hearing.
Smith’s parents, his girlfriend and a friend testified on his behalf, portraying him in saintly and superlative terms. Both friends’ testimony also revealed that Smith now considers what he did a mistake. Smith also testified. He did not apologize to the victim, who was not present. Smith said he had not been “captain of my ship” that night, and should have approached the situation differently. Though his parents and friends had portrayed him as immaculately compassionate, helpful, kind, understanding, considerate and many other qualities, Smith displayed none of those traits regarding the victim even when he spoke today, focusing almost exclusively on himself.
Perkins, who conducted the hearing by zoom, noted the contrast. “I would observe in this case that certainly the person that’s described today–of course he’s being described by his friends and family, and I would hope that they would be kind in that regard–but certainly that person is described as having qualities that certainly were not apparent on the video that I watched during the course of the trial,” Perkins said before pronouncing sentence.
Two videos had been show the jury of the near-totality of the Lyft drive from Flagler Beach to the intersection of Royal Palms Parkway and Belle Terre Parkway the night of August 1, 2020, in the early phase of the covid pandemic. One video showed the route. Another showed the interior, with sound. The victim’s testimony at trial indicated that Smith had insulted him and his wife just before the tart of the ride, when the victim was on the phone with him, wondering where he was. The driver, an American citizen, was of Turkish descent and spoke fluent English but with a heavy accent.
But the ride itself was uneventful. Smith was with a friend and his friend’s young child. They did small talk with the driver. They occupied themselves with lighthearted banter in the back seat. The plastic partition the victim had installed between the back seat and the front seat, as covid protection, caught Smith’s attention. Smith asked the driver about it. Then, out of the blue, Smith called the driver a liar. The driver was clearly surprised but, captain of his ship, continued driving calmly, professionally. The outside video showed he did not speed, did not run red lights or stop signs, did not swerve.
Smith and his friend would testify that he supposedly did all those things, and that they had asked him to pull over repeatedly because they felt unsafe. Only then, Smith claimed, he ripped through the plastic partition and grabbed the driver’s head and neck, twisting his head as his friend and the child jumped out. Video showed Smith pummeling the driver outside. The driver testified that Smith had spat on him on purpose, saying he had covid. In a deposition, the driver also said Smith called him a terrorist. That claim never made it into the trial.
Smith’s testimony at trial was particularly, blatantly contradicted by the videos, and when Libby asked him repeatedly where it was that this or that happened, as he claimed, Smith would say, “not in that video,” as if to suggest to the jury yet another lie: that there were other videos, or that the videos had been tampered with. None of the evidence presented at trial showed or suggested that. And Bonamo today, despite and still, did not pull back from his client’s interpretation, continuing to portray the case as a he-said-he-said account.
It was, Bonamo told Perkins, “an interpretation of an incident by two people in the same car, but under two different scenarios of what was taking place from the alleged victim’s viewpoint and from our my client’s viewpoint.”
“The video speaks for itself judge,” Libby said. “Nowhere in that video did we hear Mr. Smith asking to get out of the vehicle, did we did we see Mr. Smith or [his friend Andrew] Kastl being in fear for their life. This is a story that they made up so that Mr. Smith could get away with attacking his Lyft driver and just get away with it, judge. Mr. Smith says he is a caring person and all his his friends and family here today have testified to that judge. But Mr. Smith did not care about [the child] or Andrew Kastl when when he decided to attack his Lyft driver in a moving vehicle.”
Libby added: “Mr. Smith here is attempting to place the blame on an innocent person who was doing nothing more than ensuring Mr. Smith and his passengers made it home safely. Now, only today, not once during the trial, not once during any of the hearings, only today when Mr. Smith is here, in front of the court for sentencing, he says he regrets everything, he admits to not being calm, cool and collected.”
Smith was to have been sentenced last week. That was rescheduled. Smith said today that it was a good thing, because he had “quite a different speech prepared,” one presumably not as regretful as the one he delivered today. He spoke of an epiphany on Sunday when he thought back to a boating incident when he damaged his boat during a storm. “Being fearful I should have been collected, and where I was fearful that night, I was maybe a little aggressive, which is a very abnormal behavior of mine as my my friends here today, my parents, have discussed with you,” he said. “This was a one time incident. This is not something that I’m out in the community doing. You know, and I regret everything.”
He never described what he did for a living–that never came out at any point at trial or today, other than his doing some surfing instruction. But said he was hoping to be a city council member “in the city.” He did not specify whether Palm Coast or Flagler Beach. He is a resident of Palm Coast’s R Section, but referred to an initiative in Flagler Beach (the placement of dispensers for cigarette butts on Flagler Beach’s boardwalk) when speaking of the inspiration “to be part of the council in the city”–after he established “a good business.” His girlfriend said he was hoping to own a restaurant.
But again, issues of veracity emerged even today.
“First off, while you’ve been in custody since March 25, has that been the first time that you’ve ever been in custody, let alone in custody for that period of time?” Bonamo asked Smith. (Smith has been at the county jail since May 25.)
“Yes,” Smith said.
“And do you have any prior criminal record before today?” Bonamo asked.
“I have no violent criminal history or anything like that,” Smith said–a careful answer that did not slip past Libby.
“Mr. Smith, you said that you have absolutely no criminal history,” she said.
“I have no violent criminal history,” he said.
“The fact that you told the court that you have no criminal history, that’s not entirely correct. Is that true?”
“I said no violent criminal history,” Smith said.
“But you’ve been previously arrested in the past, correct?”
“That’s correct,” Smith said. But he claimed that his records were “all exonerated or expunged not to be discussed in the courtroom.”
That’s not what the record of the Harford County, Md., Clerk of Court shows. He was charged with drunk driving on Oct. 31, 2006, according to records freely available to public examination, and pleaded guilty on June 6, 2007. The court record further indicates that he was sentenced to 60 days in jail, with 30 of those days suspended, and two years of probation. Further back, he had been charged with possession of alcohol while under 21, in August 2002, pleading guilty that October. He was fined.
It’s not clear which charges Libby was referring to. “I don’t see anything that’s expunged. I do see that they were dismissed though,” she said, suggesting that there may have been additional items, since the two charges from 2006 and 2002 had not been dismissed. But Perkins did not let the inquiry go further. Bonamo objected, and Perkins sustained the objection.
Aside from the sentence of 90 days, with credit for the 23 days already served, and the six months of probation, Perkins ordered Smith to complete anger management, a substance abuse evaluation and, if recommended, treatment, a letter of apology to the victim, and submission to random drug tests. Smith will be eligible for early termination of his probation at the halfway point, if he has successfully met all his requirements by then.
The victim, Libby said, was out of the country and had no desire to attend the sentencing. “The issue with all the court hearings and the trial was traumatic enough for him, and he did not want to attend,” she said.