Judge rejects plea agreement

Jae’vianne Aldridge

MICHIGAN CITY – A teenage girl charged with murder last year has been rescheduled to face a jury in La Porte Superior Court 1 later this year after the judge rejected her plea agreement on Thursday.

Jae’vianne Camerial “Precious” Aldridge was 18 when she was accused of fatally shooting 32-year-old Joseph Pryor in Michigan City’s Eastport neighborhood on July 25, 2018.

Facing a murder charge, which carries a potential sentence of 45-65 years in prison, Aldridge entered into a plea agreement in February that called for her to plead guilty to the lesser included offense of reckless homicide in exchange for a considerably smaller prison sentence, to be decided by the judge.

Despite going through with an argued sentencing hearing on April 22, Aldridge requested multiple continuances of her sentencing pronouncement before asking on June 28 that her guilty plea be withdrawn.

Then, on July 19, she asked the court to re-enter her guilty plea, and was scheduled to return to court for a decision on Aug. 8.

Judge Michael Bergerson ultimately rejected her request and rescheduled her for trial to begin Dec. 2, with a final pretrial conference date of Oct. 31.

“The court is not satisfied that there is a sufficient factual basis for accepting this plea,” Bergerson said Thursday.

Aldridge is accused of shooting Pryor outside her sister’s residence in the 100 block of North Woodland Avenue.

Michigan City Police say the incident stemmed from an altercation that occurred earlier in the day at Lakeland Estates, during which a juvenile teenage girl was jumped by multiple people, including Aldridge’s sister, Alicefayia “Lil Mama” Fleming.

The juvenile reportedly told police that when she was attacked, she was on the phone with her sister, who then phoned Aldridge, who invited the group to Fleming’s home to continue the fight.

Police say that when the group arrived, Aldridge came out of the house wielding a gun, and fatally shot Pryor, the juvenile’s uncle, in the head.

But Aldridge’s defense attorney, Gregory Hofer, says in his sentencing brief – filed on June 26 – that the police reports “do not accurately state the case.”

Hofer contends the only eyewitnesses interviewed by police were those associated with Pryor.

“The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has acknowledged as much by way of its offer to allow a plea to reckless homicide,” the attorney wrote.

He also claims the facts of the case prove Aldridge was acting in self-defense when she fired her weapon; and he accuses Pryor of having facilitated his own death.

“He was part of a mob who had descended upon the home in which several young women found themselves,” Hofer wrote. “This mob had already broken into the home and caused physical harm to several of the occupants, including the defendant. The defendant acted under strong provocation.”

Later in the document, the defense attorney reminded the court his client testified that she only fired the gun in an attempt to frighten people away from the home and without the intent of killing anyone.

Now that Aldridge’s plea agreement has been rejected, it has been removed from the record and her “not guilty” plea has been reinstated.

Her options at her Oct. 31 final pretrial conference are to either enter a new plea agreement, confirm she’s ready to proceed to jury trial on Dec. 2, or request another continuance.

As she awaits the resolution of her case, Aldridge remains incarcerated at the La Porte County Jail on a cash-only bond of $1 million.

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