A New York high school cheer rivalry resulted in a tragic end with one girl losing her life, another girl spending the rest of her teen years institutionalized, and a family unhappy with the “justice” they were served.
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, a 15-year-old Mount Vernon student accepted her sentencing of 3 to 9 years of lockdown in a state juvenile detention center from Westchester County Judge Susan Cacace. The sentence was not unexpected, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reports.
In December, when the suspect pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the stabbing death of rival cheerleader Kayla Green, the judge promised her she would receive a sentence in this range.
On April 8, Green and a friend attended a parade at Mount Vernon City Hall to celebrate their school’s basketball team’s undefeated season.
After the ceremony, at approximately 3:55 p.m. and two blocks away, Green and her friend Mainece Simpson were in a vehicle on East Prospect Avenue near Gramatan Avenue.
At that time, the defendant opened up the door of the car to get to the Mount Vernon High School sophomore. A great deal of violent commotion ensued, and Green was subsequently fatally stabbed twice in the heart with a knife by the defendant and hit with a stick by someone else.
Simpson was also injured in the melee.
The incident was captured on at least two cellphone videos.
Green was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx before being pronounced dead. Later that evening, the Mount Vernon Police Department arrested the defendant in Dobbs Ferry.
Green’s family spoke out against the sentencing, arguing that the time is too short a punishment considering they will never see their loved one again.
Laverne Gordon said, “I will never see my daughter again. My daughter will never have a future. She will never have family. Nothing.”
The bereaved mother also said, “justice did not occur,” in this case, calling the sentencing in court a “mockery.”
“My family is broken and our heart will never mend from this loss of my daughter,” Gordon said.
Westchester County District Attorney Miriam Rocah said in a statement, “A teenage defendant senselessly took the life of Kayla Green, and in doing so, left a community devastated.”
“As a family and the Mount Vernon community remain in mourning, I want to reiterate my commitment to working with our vital community partners for meaningful violence prevention and intervention, especially for our youth,” the statement continued. “I know that nothing can cure the pain of losing a child. My office will do what it can within the bounds of New York’s laws to seek accountability in these cases.”
The sentencing that Cacace handed down is a little below the maximum of 3 1/2 to 10 years for a juvenile offender.
The offender seemed contrite at the hearing, admitting she made a horrible decision that she wished she could take back.
“I am sorry my actions took away a big sister. I am sorry my actions took away a daughter,” the teen said. “I think of all the different choices I could have made that day that would have left Kayla alive and saved her family this heartache. But that is why everyone is here today because I made bad choices.”
While the sentencing was considered light by Green’s family, it was the most that the legal system could charge her with, considering her age and what they could prove around the “intent” of the crime.
In the state of New York, manslaughter is determined with the “intent” of the assault or engagement being “to cause serious physical injury to another person,” but the person actually causes “the death of that person.” This was the maximum charge the young girl could get for stabbing.
In May, a Westchester grand jury said a manslaughter charge is appropriate because the defendant might have meant to cause serious injury but not her death. The panel added that the attempted first-degree assault could be proved, showing the teen had an intent to seriously injure.
The second-degree assault charge, which accuses the defendant of injuring one of Green’s friends with a weapon while trying to seriously hurt her, also could be proved.
All the other counts support her misdemeanor weapons charge for having a knife.
Rocah previously said in a statement, “Pursuing justice on behalf of all victims has been, and continues to be, paramount to the work of my office. We remain committed to vigorously prosecuting violent crimes and will seek to hold the defendant accountable within the bounds of the law that have been put in place in relation to juvenile offenders.”
Despite the perceived light sentencing, the judge did decline to grant the unnamed defendant youthful offender status based on her age. Cacace pointed out the offender had a history of violent conduct and truancy in school, and Green’s death represented “an abject failure across the board.”
“This death was avoidable,” she said. “It’s a travesty that this young girl lost her life during an unnecessary and violent attack.”
Green and her killer were once teammates on the Supreme All Stars, an independent cheer squad. However, Green left that squad to join the Mount Vernon High School cheerleaders and become the captain of the junior varsity team.
Assistant District Attorney James Bavero noted he believed the defendant was “determined” to hurt Green that day and called the killing “intentional, senseless, and vicious.”
“She took the opportunity when it was there to stab Kayla Green when she was vulnerable and when her back was to the defendant,” Bavero insists.
But without the grand jury indictment, his hands were tied.