In less than 10 minutes, a mother who has been fighting criminal charges related to her son being fatally hit by a drunk driver while crossing a busy road walked away with paying a $200 fine for jaywalking.
Raquel Nelson, 32, of Marietta appeared Thursday before Cobb State Court Judge Kathryn Tanksley and entered a negotiated plea so that her case could finally come to a close.
Tanksley ordered her to pay a $200 fee on the jaywalking charge and the second-degree vehicular homicide and reckless conduct charges were dismissed by the state.
“It’s been a really long process and I’m glad to have it over,” Nelson said outside the courthouse afterwards.
“(This will) allow me to move forward with what it is that I really wanted to come out of this in the first place, which is I did not want to point fingers but just give the state of Georgia an opportunity to help me help them, save a life from the loss of a life or more,” she said as tears slowly welled up in her eyes.
“I’m glad to have it over and done with,” she said. “It’s a breath to say the least. It’s been a really long, hard road.”
Nelson was charged in April 2010 after her 4-year-old son, A.J. Newman, was struck and killed by a drunk driver as she and the boy were crossing Austell Road near Somerpoint Apartments in Marietta.
During the last three years, a jury has found Nelson guilty of all three charges but Tanksley granted her the opportunity to have a new trial, an appeal related to charges was denied by the Georgia Court of Appeals and a petition before the Supreme Court of Georgia was also denied.
Deputy Solicitor General Jimmy Newkirk, who has been handling the case all along for the state, said during the 8-minute hearing that the state does recognize the tragedy Nelson has dealt with the last three years.
“It is very traumatic for a mother to have witnessed the death of the child she birthed,” he said. “The state recognizes that as parents you expect your children to bury you, rather than for you to bury them.
“Ms. Nelson will have to live with this each and every day of her life and, in this particular case, if you will look at the record, the case has never had her arrested. She has not been inside a jail on this particular case. Because of all these facts and procedures of the case, the state asks the court to accept the plea offer we put before you today.”
After the hearing Nelson’s attorney, Steve Sadow, said he was satisfied with the outcome.
“I think it is in her best interest,” he said. “It has been three long years. It’s been a horrible tragedy. She doesn’t need to relive this again.
“It was always important to her for the state, the prosecutors and the community to know that she is not responsible for the death of her child and (Thursday’s) resolution shows that and proves it.”
Sadow also said that the jaywalking charge is equivalent to a traffic ticket and shouldn’t reflect negatively on her record.
As far as what Nelson will do now and how she moves on with her life after this tragedy, Nelson said she is unsure.
“I might just go and sit and cry for an hour, I’m not quite sure,” she said. “The grieving process is exactly what it is, a process.”
She also said she doesn’t hold any grudges against the state because of the way the case dragged on for so long.
“I did, but I realized at the end of the day it really boils down to they have to do what they have to do,” she said. “I don’t really think it was in the interest of A.J., but what’s done is done and I can’t change that.”
Nelson said she would like to work with the county in some way and see what she can do to create more crosswalks so that this doesn’t happen to another family.
“I’m hoping it’ll give me that push to get, with everything I’ve had in mind, out there,” she said.
New charges for mother
Her legal issues aren’t over, though.
Nelson was arrested this past August on charges of fleeing from police, speeding, driving with an expired tag and window tint that was too dark, all misdemeanors.
According to Cobb Police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce, two motorcycle officers on Cobb Parkway measured her as driving 64 mph in a 45-mile-per-hour zone.
The officers motioned her to pull over, but she drove around them and pulled into the campus of Southern Polytechnic State University. Officers began searching the area when construction workers pointed them towards the back part of a parking lot, where they found her parked behind another vehicle.
Nelson said that the case is still pending.
“I’m not going to comment on them because it does not pertain to this,” she said. “But as the prosecutor said, it’ll all be over soon, so I’m going to stick to that one.”
According to personnel at the Cobb County State Clerk of Court Office, Nelson is scheduled to appear back before Tanksley on June 26 on these charges.