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Mom Lisa Wilkins to confront hit-run driver Jennifer Porter at probation hearing

TAMPA — Lisa Wilkins will sit in a courtroom today and once again face the woman who hit and killed two of her children, seriously injured two more, and then drove away in 2004.

She said she's ready to tell the judge not to grant Jennifer Porter's request to end her probation early.

"She doesn't deserve to be on the street," Wilkins said as she sat in her Land O'Lakes home Wednesday evening.

Wilkins said she's never had contact with Porter, but today she would like her to see what she has done. The mother plans to bring her two injured children, 13-year-old Aquina Wilkins and 7-year-old LaJuan Davis, who both suffer from memory loss as result of the accident.

Porter is midway through her three-year probation. That's when defendants typically are eligible to seek an early end to the restrictions.

The accident, on a busy street in front of the University Area Community Center, killed 13-year-old Bryant Wilkins and his 3-year-old brother, Durontae Caldwell. The two other children were seriously injured.

In late 2005, Porter pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crash involving a death. A judge sentenced her to two years of house arrest, three years of probation and 500 hours of community service work. Wilkins said she believes Porter's attorney, Barry Cohen, is the reason his client avoided jail time.

She got a call to testify at Porter's hearing Monday from the State Attorney's Office.

"I thought, 'Here we go again,' " Wilkins said.

Lawyer Thomas Parnell was not surprised at Porter's request. But he described the request as an insult to his client, Wilkins.

"The majority in the community felt that the sentence was not harsh enough," Parnell said. "So to shorten the sentence would be a slap in the face to her. I think that's what the community is feeling. The sentence was certainly as light as it could have been. She should have just served it and left it alone."

It was a divisive issue then, and still was Wednesday, with conflicting reactions posted at tampabay.com.

Some are still outraged that Porter, a former dance teacher at Tampa's Muller Elementary School, received no prison time. Others attacked Wilkins for letting her children cross north Tampa's 22nd Street in the dark, without adult supervision.

Porter is expected to appear for a hearing on the request today at 11 a.m. before Circuit Judge Tom Barber.

Wilkins said she knows life isn't always fair but she hopes the judge will do the right thing.

"She shouldn't get off probation," she said. "It's not a fair case when it comes to burying two kids."

Mom Lisa Wilkins to confront hit-run driver Jennifer Porter at probation hearing 05/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 5:18pm]
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