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Orlando Carter accepts plea deal

Building with large windows
Richmond's John Marshall Court's building. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Orlando Carter was shot three times by Richmond police officer Ja’Ontay Wilson on New Year’s Eve of 2020. He survived the shooting but was charged with two felonies, which his attorneys have been fighting ever since. Last Friday, Carter entered a guilty plea to those charges and accepted a deal that means he will avoid jail time.

However, Carter’s family says they’re not finished seeking justice for his shooting by a Richmond police officer. According to Jennifer Carter, Orlando’s mother, they plan to take legal action against the Richmond Police Department and the officers involved.

“We are planning on suing,” Jennifer said. “So that way it's in their records. And it's always in their records that they did this and they have bad complaints for police brutality and racial profiling.”

Another motivation for her legal suit, Jennifer said, is the thought of what will happen the next time a Black man is pulled over by Richmond police officers.

“The next person they get, they’re going to kill him,” Jennifer said. “No traffic stop should end this way.”

Jennifer said she also plans to make a complaint against the officers involved in her son’s shooting to Virginia’s attorney general.

Though Orlando conceded that the Commonwealth had sufficient evidence to convict him of his charges, his plea agreement did not concede that the Commonwealth’s story about what happened that night is accurate. His mom says that’s because his family hopes his guilty plea will be overturned in the future.

“So that way, at some point Orlando can be exonerated of these charges,” Jennifer said.

Orlando pleaded guilty to eluding the police and to possession of a firearm by a nonviolent felon. The prosecution claims that Orlando was pointing this gun at police when he was shot, but the defense asserts in documents filed with the court that he was shot in the lower back, in the back of his arm and on the rear side of his hip.

Jennifeer says she hopes her forthcoming legal action against the police results in the body camera footage of the incident being made public. She’s seen the footage and says her son was struggling to run away on a broken leg when he was shot.

“I wish you guys would have been able to see the body cam footage. I would like for that to come out,” Jennifer said. “You see him running away.”

Under the plea agreement, the possession charges against Orlando were downgraded from a sentence that carries a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.

But despite entering a guilty plea, the court will not officially rule Orlando guilty for another nine months. After nine months of good behavior, he will be officially found guilty. Under his plea agreement, he’ll only face probation and will avoid jail time for those charges.

In the meantime, Orlando’s pretrial restrictions, including house arrest and electronic monitoring, will be lifted.

Jennifer says her son deserves better than the plea deal he was offered. She says even though he avoided spending time in prison, Orlando will spend his life struggling to find housing and employment as a result of his felony conviction.

“I still don’t think he should’ve gotten any charges considering what they did to him,” Jennifer said.