The two teen-agers involved in a home-invasion robbery in Palm Coast’s P Section in December 2020 will plead to felony charges that could have resulted in life in prison, but will instead carry a penalty of a maximum of 15 years, and possibly as little as 10–the mandatory minimum. The prosecutor will push for 15. Defense attorneys will aim for 10.
The two boys, who are held at a juvenile detention facility, appeared by video link today in a hearing before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins, who was in his Bunnell courtroom, to work out the plea arrangements with their attorneys. The pleas will be formally entered in March, and they will be sentenced a few weeks after that.
The case stems from one of the more violent incidents in Palm Coast in the last few years, involving seven victims at a residence on prospect Lane, some of whom were beaten, several of whom were injured. The victims were three women, ages 20, 20 and 47, two men, 22 and 23, and two boys, 16 and 17. The assailants took $1,300 in cash and items of value. The violence was captured on home surveillance cameras. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office captured the three assailants within hours. A fourth assailant was not captured. (See: “Federal Felon and 2 Teens Arrested in Armed Home Invasion-Robbery on Palm Coast’s Prospect Lane.”)
Darius Watts is 17 years old. He was 15 when he was one of three people arrested on charges of home-invasion robbery on Prospect Lane in Palm Coast. The others were Korie Jones, 15, and Carlos Dupree, 34. Dupree intends to take his case to trial.
Watts was 9–it was two days after his ninth birthday–when he was first arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, interfering with a school administrator’s functions and battery, according to his juvenile detention record. He was 10 when he was arrested for criminal mischief and damaging property. At age 12, he was arrested again for disturbing the peace at school and resisting an officer. At age 13, he was arrested on his first weapons charge: firing into a building. At age 14, was arrested on a charge of stealing a gun.
Then came the most serious charges in that incident in December 2020 on prospect Lane: Home invasion robbery, armed burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, and two other felony charges since dropped.
Until that incident, Jones had no juvenile justice record in Florida. Like Dupree, he is from St. Louis. But he faces the same charges that Watts does, and would plead to the same arrangement.
Attorney Richard Price is representing Jones. All charges would be dismissed by the home invasion robbery and false imprisonment charges. “We’ll be asking the judge for the lower end of that agreement,” Price said. Price was appearing from his own office, by video link. He told Jones that the day of the sentence, he would have his family present, pleading to the judge for leniency. He also faces an undetermined number of years on probation: it could be for life.
Watts was more perplexed by the offer. He did not seem to be on the same page with his attorney. “I did briefly discuss that with him in Duval County Jail yesterday. I’m not sure if he’s willing to accept that or not,” Anthony Leonard, his attorney, told Perkins. (Leonard is a court-appointed lawyer with the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel).
“The only choices remain are an open plea or going to trial,” the attorney told Watts. “And as I know you’re adamant about not going to trial, so that leaves the one option, it would be an open plea.” An open plea would expose him potentially to a much steeper sentence: since there was an allegation of a gun firing, he could have a minimum sentence of 20 years in an open plea.
“When did you come to see me?” Watts asked his attorney.
“I will come to see before your next court date,” Leonard told him. Watts wanted a continuation of the hearing. That wasn’t going to happen. He paused, hummed, asked for the deal to be explained to him again. He was being asked to decide his fate in a matter of seconds, or a few minutes. Clearly, his attorney had not spent much time with him, though he’s been incarcerated for over a year. The attorney explained again, barely veiling the pressure on Watts to plead to the terms presented, now. “If you do not accept the offer and you go to trial, you’re facing up to life, the judge can give you life on these charges,” his attorney said. He told him he’d visit him in ail to explain it all in person.
“All right. All right. I’ll do that,” Watts said.
His plea hearing is scheduled for March 9 at 1:30 p.m. That of Jones is scheduled for March 7 at 1:30 p.m. The boys will turn 18 soon after they begin their prison term. Whatever their sentence, they will be eligible for over a year of credit for time already served, in addition to early release after serving 85 percent of their sentence. Theoretically, if they are sentenced to 10 years, they could be out in seven and a half, in their mid-20s.
The Dupree case will not be pleaded out, Spencer O’Neal, his attorney, said today in a separate hearing. Dupree did not appear in court, in person or by zoom. O’Neal said he’d not been able to see him in three weeks because of Putnam jail restrictions due to Covid. But, O’Neal said, Watts and Jones “sit in different shoes than my client does. So I don’t know that we’ll be able to resolve his case with a plea.” He added: “The depositions have been done, the cases prepared. We don’t really have anything else left to do except play the game.”
In November, Dupree wrote Judge Perkins a one-page letter from the jail in Palatka, describing himself as the father of six children and the son of “a murdered father” (when Dupree was 9) and a mother, twin brother and sister who were “killed due to medical malpractice, leaving him to fend for his 6-year-old brother by himself. He said he was shot and stabbed when he was 18 and was hospitalized for “depression, schizophrenia and anger problems.” The loss of his parents and siblings, he said, led him to make “a lot of bad decisions.” But he wanted the judge to see him as who he was, “not how this situation portrays me.”
Dupree was on federal probation from Missouri, on drug and gun charges, when he was arrested in December 2020. He has remained in jail since. The Flagler County jail’s website indicates he is incarcerated there. That is incorrect. He has been at the Putnam County jail since July 27 because of new charges stemming from an incident at the Flagler County jail that caught significant attention at the time.
Dupree and another inmate–since sentenced to prison for murder–assaulted a jail corrections officer who had been searching their Koran. (All books, including religious materials, may be searched by jail personnel.) The officer, Edward Wallace, ended up hospitalized after sustaining two dozen blows from the two inmates. Dupree’s fellow-inmate at the time was Marion Gavins Jr., 18. He was sentenced to 45 years for the shooting death of Flagler Palm Coast High School student Curtis Gray in 2019.
Dupree got three more third-degree felony charges from the incident with Wallace and was transferred to the Putnam jail, pending trial in Flagler. Today, the court scheduled the home invasion case for docket sounding, the last step before trial, on May 3, for trial the week of May 16.