Ky’Andrea Cook did not cry this time, not even tears of joy, when a judge struck down her 20-year prison sentence after ruling that he found her plea to be an injustice.
Circuit Judge Matt Foxman had stunned the 18-year-old Mainland High School student when he sentenced her June 27 to two decades behind bars for a carjacking and battery in which a man was shot and seriously injured.
Foxman on Monday allowed her to withdraw her no contest plea, striking down her sentence. Her case goes back on the docket as if she had never agreed to anything.
Cook took the stand Monday and testified that her assistant public defender, Frank Scott, had assured her the day before her sentencing that she would not be going to prison and that at most she would get community control or probation.
Cook told her new defense attorney Steven Robinson that she was happy before her court date because Scott had told her she was going home.
But Cook had entered an open plea which left discretion entirely up to Foxman. He could have sentenced her from as little as probation or community control all the way up to life in prison. Foxman gave her 20 years in prison.
But on Monday, Foxman struck down his sentence but not because of the 20 years.
“The manifest injustice that I find present here is not actually the sentence,” Foxman said. “It could have been anything incarcerative and I think the same problem would have existed. I believe in the defendant’s mind she believed she was going home that day. She had reason to believe that from this, I’ll call it a miscommunication with Mr. Scott. He’s an old pro at this. I know he would not have made a promise he knew couldn’t have been kept.”
Cook, who had at times tapped one of her feet nervously, did not show any obvious reaction. But one of her family members in the courtroom thanked God after her sentence was struck down.
Prosecutor Ashley Terwilleger had argued against allowing Cook to withdraw her plea, saying that 20 years was an appropriate sentence behind a serious crime.
Cook was arrested and accused of taking part in a set up to rob a pair of men. On March 22, Perry Nida, 27, and Immanuel “Manny” Pursel, 17, drove to meet Cook at her job at Long John Silver’s, 2156 Ridgewood Ave. in South Daytona. Nida had met Cook on a dating up called Meet Me and expected to have sex with her. Pursel expected to sell her some pot.
But moments after the meeting and as the pot was weighed a masked gunman jumped into the pickup seconds after Cook. Pursel leaned over and pushed the gunman who fired twice, one bullet boring through Pursel’s intestines and lodging in his pelvis where doctor’s decided to leave it, saying it would be too dangerous to extract.
Terwilleger said that the day after Pursel was shot Cook and four other men carjacked another victim.
“After all is said and done she was the mastermind behind this criminal activity,” Terwilleger said.
Cook is charged with being a principal to carjacking, principal to attempted carjacking and principal to aggravated battery, all with a deadly weapon.
Cook is the only person who has been arrested in the case.
Robinson had provided the judge a copy of a voicemail Scott had left Cook’s mother in which he said she would not go to prison.
“I’ve been talking to the prosecutor. I think we’re getting close to resolving Andrea’s case,” Scott said. “And uh obviously she’s not going to prison. She has no prior record. So I mean she’s looking at probation or community control.”
On the stand on Monday, Scott said he had never promised anything to Cook. But Robinson said it didn’t make sense that he would not promise anything to Cook but leave the voicemail telling the mother that her daughter would not go to prison.
Robinson on Monday asked Scott if he had talked to any other attorneys about Cook’s case. Scott said that he had not other than Robinson himself.
Robinson then called defense attorney Mike Lambert, who testified that right after Cook’s sentencing on June 27 Scott had asked him if he might be subject to a motion, known as a 3.850, if you tell your client that she is going to get probation and she doesn’t.
Lambert said he told Scott it depended on whether the client believed him and relied on his advice.