Acquited in rape, Reid faces new charges

mgordon@charlotteobserver.comNovember 15, 2013 

For the time being, Demarcus Reid’s future bears a striking resemblance to his past.

In January, when the 21-year-old Charlotte man was acquitted of a 2010 rape charge that kept him jailed for 21/2 years, Reid spoke of second chances, of “just focusing on what’s ahead.”

On Thursday, however, Reid again wore the orange jumpsuit of a Mecklenburg County jail inmate while his lawyer tried to persuade a judge to help Reid get out of jail.

On July 28, just before midnight, police say Reid was behind the wheel of a 2005 Chevy Malibu going 65 mph in a 40 mph zone on Eastway Drive. He had four young women with him, but only Reid wore his seat belt. Prosecutors say he did not have a license.

Near Central Avenue, Reid’s car rear-ended a van, then crossed into the northbound lane of Eastway, slamming head-on into a Ford Explorer.

All four of Reid’s passengers were thrown from the car. Two of them died. Another, the mother of a young child, remains in a coma.

Reid has been charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of reckless driving to endanger, among other offenses.

When he entered the courtroom Thursday, Reid smiled at friends and family who sat about 30 feet away.

On the other side of the courtroom, Bridgette Hinton seethed. Her daughter, Ashley Gilliam, was killed in the crash. She said the smiles and lighthearted gestures between Reid and his supporters felt disrespectful, almost flippant.

“My daughter is gone,” she said a day later. “I guess they’re all happy that he may be getting out. But I can’t see my child.”

Reid listened as his attorney, Norman Butler, argued that Reid deserved a low bond. He said the accident occurred after his client tried to avoid a car that had veered across the center line into his lane.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting says that explanation doesn’t jibe with accounts of witnesses and an accident reconstruction by police.

After both attorneys finished, Superior Court Judge Richard Boner set Reid’s bond at $20,000 for each manslaughter charge.

Is that $20,000 total? Butler ventured.

“It’s not Christmas,” the judge replied.

‘Guilty until proven innocent’

Reid’s school record speaks of a certain mobility. In 2007, he started at West Mecklenburg High. He spent the next two years at Waddell, where, according to an interview, he played football and ran track.

He would graduate from South Meck in 2012, while in jail.

In June 2010, as he prepared for his senior year in high school, Reid was arrested with his brother and two other teens on charges of rape, assault and kidnapping in a reported attack on a teen girl in north Charlotte.

Reid and the others accused said the sex was consensual. Reid never made bond.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school records indicate that he earned his diploma last November. Last January, he was acquitted of the rape charges and freed from jail.

“They say innocent until proven guilty,” he told WSOC-TV at the time. “But when you’re in there, it feels like you’re guilty until proven innocent.”

After his arrest in connection with the July crash, Reid’s mother paid a visit to Hinton, whose daughter was among the dead passengers, trying to “plead his case.”

“She told me he was on his way to college, that he was working,” Hinton said. “At the time, I was pretty emotional. I just told her to get the hell out of my house. There was not a thing I wanted to say to her.”

Asked by the Observer if she has anything to say to Reid, Hinton had her questions lined up.

“Why were you driving without a license?” she said. “Why were you speeding? What did all that stuff you did that night mean?”

On his Facebook page, Reid appears shirtless, muscled like the former high school athlete he is. A previous post says he started school at the University of Florida, and there are musings, several of them profane, about friendships, life and love.

On May 29, his tone changes, as he apparently writes about being out of jail.

“I thank God for every person who done been apart of my life since I been home … my oath to yall is: Ima make it, I ain’t slacking, I dnt need anything but God n y’all words of encouragement.”

Gordon: 704-358-5095

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