They were 15 years old–15, when Korie Jones and Darius Watts left their separate homes to join Carlos Dupree, 34, and a fourth man on a criminal scheme: to terrorize, brutalize and rob a Palm Coast family at gunpoint. All they got was $1,400.
Jones had left his home in St. Louis, unbeknownst to his mother. Watts was from Volusia County. Dupree was the apparent ringleader. The fourth man is still at large to this day. The four attacked the family in its P-Section home late the night of Dec. 13, 2020, beating, stomping and throwing a chair on one of the victims, holding their mother and others at gunpoint, threatening several of the victims with death, and demolishing furniture before stealing a cash box with $1,400 and attempting to running out. That’s all they got, and they didn’t get far.
Watts is 17, Jones is 16 now. They were charged as adults: armed home-invasion robbery, armed burglary, false imprisonment, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. They faced up to life in prison if convicted by a jury.
In a pair of separate hearings lasting most of this afternoon at the Flagler County Courthouse, Circuit Judge Terence Perkins sentenced both to 15 years in prison, followed by 15 years on probation for Jones, eight years for Watts, who fired a gun once at the ceiling but, unlike Jones, did not physically brutalize victims. Perkins was ratifying a plea negotiated between Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark and the defense attorneys for the two boys–Richard Price for Jones, Anthony Leonard for Watts.
Watts almost threw Leonard off the case in a last-minute motion to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming Leonard had “tricked” him into accepting. But as soon as Watts heard Clark outline his alternatives–a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted by a jury, her own demand for more prison time, and the possibility of life by the time a judge would make the decision–Watts, cowed, withdrew his motion to withdraw his plea and Leonard withdrew his motion to fire himself (he was about to argue that he could not represent a man who thought he was being tricked by his attorney). The sentencing hearing proceeded as scheduled.
Perkins wasn’t thrilled by the sentence. But he was bound by the deal between prosecution and defense, and he conceded that, given the two boys’ age at the time of the attack, it was reasonable. Both defense attorneys had asked for no more than 10 years in prison, and as little as five years on probation. Perkins clearly wasn’t going to go for that.
“I understand my limitations, and I am bound by the terms of the negotiated plea, which is the sentence from 10 to 15 years,” Perkins told the lawyers in the first hearing, words he applied to the second sentence as well. “Were I not prepared to move forward in that range, I would have told you before taking the plea. That being said, this was to me a burglary while armed with a firearm case. It was a life sentence case right from the get go. It was a life sentence case. I think. No, I don’t know: I would have hoped and I assumed at the time I took the plea that the state took into consideration Mr. Jones’s age and the influence that Mr. Jones may have felt by peers or adults that surrounded him at the time, maybe even some elements of bad advice that they provided in that regard. And frankly, that’s why I agreed to accept the plea and talk in that range. But for that, I think the sentence would have been much different.”
A five-year sentence for one of the charges is to run concurrent to the 15 years. Perkins let the two sides know that he disagreed with that approach: he would have tacked on the five years to the 15, for a total of 20 years in prison, but again, he was bound by the negotiated plea.
Both hearings began with testimony from the woman who was the lease-holder at the Palm Coast house on Prospect Lane, and who lived there with two of her sons, who also had friends over that night. She was asleep when the home invasion began, was startled awake, then stunned to see what was unfolding in the kitchen and the living room as she came out to face a gun in her face and an order to get on the ground.
She then watched in disbelief as the assailants brought one of her sons in from outside and a parent’s nightmare unfolded.
“He started stomping on his head and beating him,” the mother told the court from the witness stand, referring to Jones, who was sitting at the defendant’s table a few feet away. “At that point I kind of blacked out. I remember screaming and telling them to stop, and then one of them came over to me and said, ‘shut the fuck up before I stopped the fuck out of you. And I said, I don’t care what you do to me, that is my child. Don’t touch him again. And at that point, all I was thinking was, okay I’m a mother, what do I do next. So in my head I said, if they touch him one more time I think I’m going to end up dying because I’m going to get up and jump on my child, and tell them you’re going to have to kill me before I let you touch my kid again. So that’s where I was thinking in my head but at that point is when they picked him up and took him into the bedroom.”
For the mother, who soon broke down on the stand from the anxiety of reliving the night she said has demolished her life, making her fearful, unable to sleep, wracked with anxiety and paranoia that violence will befall her again, the hearings would turn into their own merciless kind of torture as the prosecutor not only asked her to detail the brutality that has left her a victim of PTSD, but also replayed an in-home surveillance video, with sound, that captured the attack and the violence, again reducing the mother to sobs.
To top it off, because the hearings had to be split, the mother was again summoned to the stand not an hour and a half later to go through the whole thing again, this time with Watts sitting at the defendant’s table. She apologized to the court for shaking. She was still shaking from the first hearing. This time the mother broke down almost immediately–not from the prosecutor’s questions, but from the sheer battering the repeated memories were causing. She needed a break. The judge called for a recess to allow the woman to compose herself, or the prosecution to bring forth a different witness meanwhile. The woman collected herself in the hallway with Knoeidia Hill, the State Attorney’s Victim’s Advocate, then returned to the stand.
Two of her sons–neither of whom were among the victims that night–testified by zoom, neither of them containing their anger at the attackers, or the assailant boys’ claims that they had been pressured into it all by Dupree, that they weren’t in their right mind (Jones claimed he’d consumed drugs he’d never had before), that they didn’t mean to do harm.
“We see you on video. We know exactly who you are,” one of the victim’s sons said, as if addressing Jones at that point. “That older guy that you, everybody’s trying to pin it on, is the scapegoat. Yeah, he’s older, but he ain’t put no gun to your head and said run up in a house and steal everything. No, everybody was in here collectively doing the thing, pointing a gun at certain people. The older guy wasn’t even in there beating anybody up.”
Sentencing hearings are always rich in born-again remorse as defendants speak their apologies and their families recall what good kids they were, what second chances they need. Watts and Jones both were maybe lucky that the judge had been bound by the negotiated plea because neither did himself favors this afternoon with their courtroom conduct. Jones literally hunched back his head as if to sleep and swiveled his chair in typical teen-ager indifference as one of the victim’s sons berated his actions that night. Watts managed to say “I’m sincerely sorry,” even as he denied having been the one in the video, holding the gun, firing the gun.
“That’s you shooting off the gun,” Clark said. “You deny shooting off the gun?”
He denied again and again as Clark continued to pause the video and as if that was him, holding the gun.
And yet both Jones and Watts looked and acted every bit their age if not younger–boys barely conversant with so much as conversing, let alone with maturity. They were glaring exhibits A and B in defense attorney Richard Price’s by-then tragic understatement of the afternoon: “These juveniles, their brains don’t work the same as adult brains.” He said those brains can in a short period of time show maturity, as he claimed Jones had shown by being willing to deal, plead out, be “straight up with the court.” Some of his family members testifying by zoom from St. Louis insisted that he’d bene a good kid, that he had a good support system. While one family member apologized to the victim and her family, none explained where his support system failed him.
The testimony on Watts’s behalf was more brief. Only one person, his aunt, spoke. She revealed a more sordid, unstable family background. His mother had had him when she was 14, and his father was 50. She became homeless. She had substance abuse issued. Watts was removed from her custody, and placed briefly with his father–who had faced criminal charges in Putnam County for the unlawful sex, but the charge was dropped to battery and he served only probation. Watts was then bounced to another house, until he was charged in the Palm Coast case. his aunt, who had custody of him for two years when he was very young, called him a “sweet young man,” and “full of energy. He’d talk your head off. I wish Darius had made that choice to stay with me.”
He did not. His youth-offender record is long, and by the time he leaves prison, he will have spent half his young life incarcerated.
“I think the 15 years is a gift,” Clark said she argued for 15 years in prison and “at least” 15 years on probation for Watts, as she had for Jones, who has no prior criminal record. “He was exposed to life. But I took into account his young age and trying to fashion something so that ideally after a period of time in prison, he can come out and be a productive member of society, but at the end of the day, that’s going to be on him.”
Both Watts and Jones have been held for 585 days at a jail in Jacksonville, because there’s no juvenile lock-up in Flagler. That time will be credited to their sentence. They will have to serve the first 10 years of theirs sentence day for day. With the 11th year, they become eligible for “gain time,” which, with good behavior, will allow them to gain release a couple of months into their fifteenth year.
Dupree has not pleaded. He is scheduled for trial in Flagler County, on the same charges, starting Sept. 27. The investigations that led to the arrests and today’s sentences were conducted by detectives of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
Over It says
Look at those eyes….no souls to be found in those taxpayer funded felons. These are the type Hillary Clinton was describing when she coined the phrase “super predator”. The bad news is they will be out before they are 30 which means someone out there walking the streets today is their next victim.
Hayden S. says
Truer words were never spoken. They should have been tried as adults and gotten life.
Cya have a nice stay. You both should get Life behind bars. Lucky in that respect
So, do they know who the 4th assailant is ?
Evil walked in says
I am always so torn by these juvenile cases. For obvious reasons; they are technically children and this sentence could potentially end their life. And as a former juvenile justice nurse, I know most of these kids had no chance from day 1. You can argue that: but I can tell you I never saw a kid in level 8 that came from a stable household.
Having said that; ours homes have to be a sacred place. Totally off limits. I believe a violent home invasion should be a maximum penalty crime. Lock violent offenders up and keep them in.
This sentence was lenient; in my opinion, for this violent of a crime.
Concerned Citizen says
As a former Law Enforcement Officer.
I am not torn. They should have been tried as adults. They knew right from wrong. And intentionally set out to harm others. And seeing how this county is a strong 2nd Amendment county they got very lucky. It only takes once to kick the wrong door in.
I am always curious as to where the sympathy is for victims of these crimes. I was a victim of a burglary some years ago. Even dealing with it as a trained public safety professional it was upsetting. Nothing quite so devastating as having someone uninvited in your home.
Gabe Athouse says
Home stability is worth more than all the money in the world. Love in the home is more important. Those of you thinking about having a family please remember stability and love.
Mary Fusco says
A.J. You have such a victim mentality. It is evident that you do not like white people or trust them. Well, I am white, I raised 4 children and have 5 grandchildren and I can tell you that you would NEVER have to worry about one of them breaking into your home and holding a gun to your head!! Get over yourself. My children had a mother and father (married) in their home their whole life as did my grandchildren. Preach where it needs to be heard. As for your dislike of white police officers, my son in law is a retired (30 years) NYPD narcotics detective and he never killed anyone. Imagine all the chances he had to do so, but did not. My soapbox is retired.
If you were Black then you will understand how we as a Black People feel. Look at the history of hate toward the Black man from the White man. I dint have a victim mentality, ysll white folks love to put negative labels on other people. Yall are something else. Until you know where we came from and the hatred from the white toward us you might need to think before you label Blacks.
You are the biggest label pusher of other people on this entire forum. You most certainly have a victims mentality as Miss Fusco and the Hispanic gentleman picked up on. In a way feel sorry for you because as integration continues in this country you will have less and less people to try to point fingers at to blame for your short comings. You should really start making a hard effort to start thinking about people of other races from their perspectives. Being part black and white I have the best of both worlds and a great life free of the bitterness and constant distrust that you harbor. Get over it and you will feel a lot better.
A.j I understand exactly where you coming from, and I can truly admit that if you’re white you’ll never understand Never. What us as black people went through for centuries and still to this day will never be able to amount up to just one criminal act compared to multiple centuries of the White mans criminal Acts 💯
It’s not about liking white people or not, but the fact of the matter is all these people commenting on the case of the 3 black boys are all White!!! justice was served so it should be left at that point blank period cause I know a lot of people saying the same thing about there kids won’t do this or that and when it’s done the judge only slaps the White ones on the wrist, smgdbh 🤔
Committ the crime do the time. That is what should happen, that is not how it always happen. Wrong is wrong regardless of who you are. White male cops very seldom serve time for killing innocent people especially people of color. These young men didn’t murder a person thank God, they are going to prison. White male cops and women cops too most of them White, kill innocent people and very seldom serve any time, but they kill again. These young men were wrong and should get punished, cops should be punished too, but it very seldom happen. The world we live in.
Over It says
People like you always look for excuses and it always leads back to the color of a person’s skin. Never considering how the actions of these “innocent” people could have escalated the situation. In Mexico we had many problems but this baseless excuse of Im black and Im a victim wasnt one of them. It wouldnt work there because the people would dismiss such a lame excuse. Regardless of what you say this is still a great country that gave me an education and wealth beyond my wildest of dreams. You have a victim mentality and therefore you will always see things through the eyes of an imaginary victim.
Until you walk in the shoes of a Black Man, keep your comits to your self. Good to have a great education and great wealth, please watch what you say about how I think. The white way always trying to control, yall don’t know how we feel. Please read the history of this white hypocritical country. The lynching years. Should I go on.
Very true what you say, but people don’t like to hear the truth.
In a nation that elected Donald Trump as its leader—what
would you expect?
Concerned Citizen says
You comment over and over again how all white people are racist. And how oppressed you feel. What are you doing to change your situation? My wife is African American with a successful medical career.As her partner in an inter-racial relationship we battle discrimination and racism quite often. From our time in the service to our respective careers it was unfortunate. But we dealt with it and have built the life we have. It was not easy. Some of her own family does not speak to us. And I have had to let people go in my life because of their attitude. I do not tolerate racism and discrimination in any form or fashion. It certainly has no place in today’s society. And yes it goes both ways whether you will admit it or not.
The world owes you nothing. Get out there and make something for yourself like others have.
Who say I didn’t make anything of myself. I help the world by training my children to be good people. My sons black never went to jail, married and taking care of their families. Why do white folk love to label other people and got the nerve to tell them what they should do. The nerve of yall white jokers. Love to try to control other people. Yall need to control yourselves and those white young men killing other people and as for as I’m concerned they get away with it. I an a good voting working Black Citizen, never been to jail and took care of my children. More than a lot of yall white folks can say. There. Why am I’m wasting my time explaining my life to you and you other white jokers. My story is true. We as bkack folk don’t have to prove nothing to yall white jokers.
Anchors Away says
Am I suppose to feel sorry for these two ? Well, I do not. I was married at 14 and enlisted in the Navy at 16 (with Dads signature). These two THUGS are criminals and MUST pay for their criminal deeds. LOCK THEM UP !!!!
Robert Joseph Fortier says
What a shame when these young people throw their lives away so easily.
Folks, if you do not plan on raising your children…don’t have them.
Michael Cocchiola says
This is so dad. These young men had violence embedded in them at a very young age. Now, instead of enjoying their teen years as high school students learning and growing, they will be incarcerated as hardened criminals with limited opportunities for success post-prison.
They earned their punishment. But still, you have to feel deep sympathy for the self-destruction of two young lives.
What those two kids need is a military-style reform-school type of situation.
Instead, we send them to “Crime College” so they can learn from the dregs
of humanity, and body-build.
Come “graduation” after fifteen years, you get a super-hardened criminal
to thrust upon society.
Way to go…
Hope they rot in prison.
Watt’s mother was 14 years old when she gave birth to him. Children should NOT be having children. His father, from the story, was 50. How was that not statutory rape? As a rape victim, why wasn’t the 14 year girl given plan B immediately? Where are those pious people who declare themselves as “pro-life”. That written, these juvenile thugs are dangerous and need to be locked away.
“The testimony on Watts’s behalf was more brief. Only one person, his aunt, spoke. She revealed a more sordid, unstable family background. His mother had had him when she was 14, and his father was 50.”
Tragic. I wish The Black Lives Matter organization would care more about concentrating their energies on solving problems like these from the inside out. But they don’t seem to be willing to put their time, efforts, attention or resources towards these sorts of issues. They only seem to show up once the police get involved.
Gotta love these comments, perhaps if they invaded your home, pistol whipped your kid and you, pointed the gun at your head all for $1400, your “these poor boys” hymnal would revert to a totally different tune…a 45 in the mother’s hands case closed. These “boys” are stone cold emotionless uncaring animals that live among us..
I don’t think sentencing for juveniles should be based on time, but rather on performance and attainment of certain educational and vocational requirements. Diploma, along with extended educational and skills attainment, even some boot camp as mentioned. Don’t meet the guidelines, then you don’t get out. Ever. Simple as that.
The Geode says
…now imagine how tiresome blacks like ME get when we have to swim against the current in a sea full of “AJs”. I am the castigated one. I am the minority. I am the “odd” one.
Ironically, my past is worse than anyone looking at me now can envision YET I persevered through all this faux “racism”, fake “social injustice” (even though I’ve seen the inside of the courtroom more than any 10 random people reading this), and the narrative of “white people holding me back” (even though MY livelihood and HIS mere existence depend on them).
I am the one willing to call bullshit and exist in the grey areas. I see the people I interact with as either individual assets or liabilities. Until then, I am indifferent to everyone and compassionate to everyone.
Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Any external (or internal) differences never stopped anyone from doing or being either of those things.
You’ll never truly appreciate Heaven unless you’ve lived in Hell…
Hayden S. says
More power to you. You’re a welcome addition to any community. Thanks for posting.
How are you making this about you?