Jennifer Porter completes probation in fatal hit-and-run
TAMPA - A hit-and-run case that sparked community protests ends at midnight tonight, more than six years after the wreck killed two children and injured two others. The driver, Jennifer Porter, has completed her three years of probation, which followed two years of house arrest, state corrections officials said. Porter, 34, could not be reached for comment. "She's paid her debt to society," said Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen, who represented Porter in the criminal case.On March 31, 2004, Porter was driving home when her car struck brothers Bryant Wilkins, 13, and Durontae Caldwell, 3, and their two siblings as the children crossed North 22nd Street. Bryant and Durontae were killed. Aquina Wilkins, then 8, and Lajuan Davis, then 2, were injured. Porter drove away. Five days later, she admitted publicly that she was the driver, by which point she had hired Cohen. In a deal, the dance teacher pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death, a charge that carries up to 15 years behind bars. Prosecutors sought a three-year prison term, but Porter was sentenced in November 2005 to house arrest and probation. Protestors picketed the courthouse, complaining Porter got off lightly because she is white and the victims were black. In May 2009, a judge denied Porter's request to end her probation early. Cohen said Porter has been working to get her life back together. At first, he said, "It was very difficult because everywhere she went, people stared at her and made comments and her life was miserable."
Reporter Josh Poltilove can be reached at (813) 259-7691.