Tomica Newman, who last year pleaded guilty to attempted murder, then took it back and went to trial — only to see a jury deadlock — pleaded guilty Tuesday to a different charge for ramming her car into a romantic rival’s friend outside a 2013 hip-hop concert after-party.
Newman, 40, accepted a 10-year prison term, pleading guilty to felony hit-and-run during a break in jury selection for her retrial at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
She again faced counts of attempted murder and a hit-and-run causing death or serious bodily injury. A conviction on the latter count would have meant 20 years to life in prison, thanks to Newman’s three prior felony theft convictions, her attorney said. A conviction on the attempted murder charge would have dealt her 50 years to life.
The plea deal she accepted and then retracted last year also called for a 10-year sentence.
“Considering what she was facing, the fact she’s a mother, she’s in college now, she really just wants to get this behind her so she can get back to educating her kids,” her attorney, Gregory Carter, said following the guilty plea.
Prosecutors with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office accused Newman of pinning Monique Allen against a brick wall amid a rowdy crowd in a parking lot off Downman Road in New Orleans East on Jan. 31, 2013, after a concert at the UNO Lakefront Arena.
When Newman’s car backed away, Allen dropped to the pavement, both of her knees crushed and dislocated.
Newman pleaded guilty in February 2015, then wrote to Judge Camille Buras, saying she “didn’t intentionally try to hurt or kill anyone” and claiming her former attorney scared her into the guilty plea.
Buras allowed her to withdraw the plea, and in a November trial, Allen testified that she stared right at Newman, pleading for her to pull the car back as she stood pinned against a wall.
Newman, however, testified that she never struck Allen and never even saw her among the crowd as fighting broke out. She said she was leaving the party about 4 a.m., and a woman she had grown up with smeared a slice of cake in her face and snapped, “Bye, bitch.”
“She says it was a joke. I said, ‘I ain’t the birthday girl, so why the joke on me?’ ” Newman testified.
They got into a scuffle that was broken up, and Newman said she returned to her Acura. But her friend started fighting with the woman before hopping in the car as a crowd surrounded it, Newman said. One man beat on the car with a gun, and Newman claimed she heard gunshots before she maneuvered her way out, unscathed.
“Boom, boom, boom,” she said. “People were everywhere, running, cursing. It was just wild. I’m happy I survived and got to a safe place.”
The jury deadlocked after deliberating for about three hours.
Prosecutors acknowledged being hamstrung by the lack of a videotape that supposedly captured the incident. A New Orleans police detective apparently lost it. Still, Cannizzaro’s office moved quickly to retry Newman.
Carter said the 10-year sentence this time differs from the one Newman accepted with her earlier guilty plea. State law does not list the hit-and-run charge as a crime of violence, so Newman may serve less of it, Carter said.
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, declined to comment on the plea deal. Buras scheduled formal sentencing for May 31.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.