CHAMBERS COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A 25-year-old Chambers County mom is fighting to prevent the man who paralyzed her in a shooting from being released early after serving 28-months of his 20-year prison sentence.
WRBL News 3 is also learning questions surround how former prosecutors within the previous Chambers County District Attorney’s Office handled the case, specifically during the indictment process and deciding what charges should be filed.
Jessica Stewart tells News 3 she expects to spend the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair. In August of 2014 Stewart was shot in the neck after a fight broke out between her then-husband and 41-year-old Danny McVey during a football party in Lafayette.
“He was probably three feet from the back of the car, by the time he shot and it went through the back of my neck and out the front,” explained Stewart.
Stewart was just 20-years-old at the time of the shooting. Stewart tells News 3 the party she attended was the first time she had been out, since giving birth to her baby girl who was six-weeks-old at the time of the shooting.
“This is where I had my trachea. I was a quadriplegic from my neck at C4. I couldn’t move my hands. I couldn’t breathe on my own, and I had to have a feeding tube,” explained Stwart.
Over time Stewart has fought to regain her life and use of her limbs. She now has some arm movement and some feeling in her legs. Still, life isn’t easy. Stewart and her husband at the time ended up getting divorced. Stewart’s plans for furthering her education were put on hold as she continued her recovery.
“I don’t have any friends anymore. They don’t know how to deal with it, you know,” said the young mom.
In May of 2017, McVey was found guilty of Shooting into an Occupied Vehicle and sentenced to 20 years in prison. A jury found him not guilty of Stewart’s attempted murder.
McVey has served 28-months of his 20-year sentence. Now his attorney has filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Steve Perryman to reduce McVey’s conviction and release him.
McVey’s attorney tells News 3, he’s been stabbed in Alabama’s overcrowded prison system and needs to care for a handicapped child. McVey is asking the Judge to serve the rest of his sentence on probation or in a community corrections program while paying restitution to Ms. Stewart.
McVey’s attorney, Kesa Johnston, released the following statement to News 3 after Monday’s hearing where she advocated for his early release, and current Chambers County Assistant District Attorney Robbie Treese argued against it.
“In 2017, Danny McVey was sentenced to twenty years for discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. His original indictment included a charge for attempted murder though the jury found him not guilty as there was no intent to murder proven at trial.
Though I was not the trial attorney, the transcript from trial indicates that Ms. Stewart, her husband, and a friend attended a party at the home of my McVey’s neighbor. The testimony at trial was that Korey Stewart and others had been drinking alcohol at the party. There was an altercation at the neighbors during the time McVey was at his house asleep. McVey’s wife woke him and urged him to help the neighbors. Mr. McVey left his home with a gun, Korey Stewart had a gun, and unfortunately, Ms. Stewart was shot while in the vehicle driven by her husband.
Mr. McVey requested that the Judge reconsider his sentence based on various legal theories but in general that he be allowed to serve the rest of his sentence on either a community corrections program or probation, is required to work and pay back the victim’s restitution.
One major issue is what the Courts should do or can do about Alabama’s overcrowded prisons, the conditions in those prisons and laws that allow habitual, intentional and dangerous offenders to serve less time than those who commit crimes of a reckless nature.
No amount of time spent in prison, no amount of money or Mr. McVey losing his life can make the victim whole. Mr. McVey is being punished as he must live with this life-altering mistake, he has spent years away from his severely handicapped child and has been stabbed while in prison. He has no history that I am aware of as to any other violent crimes and or disciplinary action while in prison.
This is one of the most unfortunate situations for everyone involved that I have seen in a long time. Alabama prisons are severely overcrowded, the horrendous condition is being investigated, and taxpayers are struggling to pay for criminals who have violent, aggravated, and extreme cases. Many of those inmates are being released daily. More cases should be reviewed and possible resentencing utilized where the laws allow based on the nature of the crime and the behavior of the Defendant.”– Kesa M Johnston
Danny McVey’s attorney
Stewart says McVey was well aware of his handicapped child before he chose to fire a weapon.
“Like I said in court today, I got a life sentence myself in this wheelchair – why can’t he spend 20 years in prison,” Stewart asked.
Chambers County Assistant District Attorney Robbie Treese is arguing to keep McVey behind bars, believing the Judge doesn’t have jurisdiction to reduce the sentence.
Treese added in court, the former Chambers County District Attorney’s administration improperly indicted McVey after the shooting.
Treese says current Chambers County prosecutors believe McVey should have been charged with Attempted Murder of Stewart’s husband at the time and Assault in Stewart’s shooting.
Stewart says the former prosecutor on her case was Roland Sledge, who is a former Chambers County prosecutor who was removed from his position in the District Attorney’s Office in 2017 after Sledge was charged with Embezzling from a juvenile’s bank account who he was acting as a conservator for.
Sledge was later charged with Arson in 2018 after Valley police say he set a dangerous fire at his home in 2017.
Stewart says she is frustrated with how the case was handled before trial and during the trial. Now, she is scared of what will happen if McVey is released.
“I feel like who knows what he has been thinking of sitting in jail. He could get mad and put his anger towards me and decided to finish me off,” said Stewart.
Stewart is now waiting to hear what Judge Perryman will do, depending on her family and new fiance for support and the love of her young daughter to keep her motivated and moving forward.
“My baby girl is what has kept me going,” Stewart said.
Judge Perryman is expected to rule on the case sometime this week. News 3 will keep you updated.