As long as former South Pointe High School quarterback Davonta Blake stays clean and out of trouble, he won’t serve a day in prison for selling drugs on school grounds last fall, a judge decided Wednesday.
Taking hold of what his attorney called an extended “olive branch,” Blake, 18, pleaded guilty to three of six felony drug charges he faced after police say he brought marijuana to school in October and sold it to a student. The other three charges were dropped.
He faced up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all six charges.
“I feel like I let my community down, and that’s nothing I ever wanted to do,” Blake said in a York courtroom, reading from a letter to 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett. He also apologized for bringing embarrassment to his “South Pointe family, which seemed to be my only family at times.
“I understand some people...my age aren’t given a second chance, so I am very thankful.”
Circuit Court Judge John Hayes sentenced Blake to six years under the state’s Youthful Offender Act, but deferred any punishment until he successfully completes a juvenile drug court program.
If Blake isn’t arrested within the next five years, his record will be expunged.
“Everyone is in agreement that Mr. Blake deserves a second chance,” said Jennifer Colton, the assistant York County solicitor who prosecuted Blake.
In October, Blake was escorted from the South Pointe campus in handcuffs after police say he brought marijuana to school. After learning that marijuana had been sold on school grounds, Colton said, administrators found Blake with seven wrapped packages of marijuana in a large prescription pill bottle he stored in his book bag.
Police later searched his home and found a jar filled with 12 baggies of marijuana in his bedroom. Authorities reviewed video surveillance of Blake selling drugs to another student, who later gave the drugs to another student.
Investigators also found several text messages on Blake’s cell phone that showed he was “engaged in the sale of marijuana,” Colton said.
While free on bond awaiting trial, Blake – who had been expelled from South Pointe – enrolled in Rock Hill’s Renaissance Academy, an alternative school that gives students a second chance. He graduated from there in February, said his lawyer, Twana Burris-Alcide.
Having a “love affair with sports” since he was 5, Blake was “thrown in the fire” last fall as South Pointe’s quarterback when the starting quarterback was injured, Burris-Alcide said.
“He definitely has the DNA to overcome adversity,” she said. “He’s used to being thrown in the fire.”
Blake has taken steps to quash negative perceptions since charges were filed against him, Burris-Alcide said. He completed classes at Keystone Substance Abuse Services and recently got a job at Carowinds. He attends church with friends, she said, and has been invited to speak with students at schools, the Emmett Scott Recreation Center and the 2013 York County Legislative Breakfast.
In June, he will take the ACT college readiness test and hopes to attend Georgia Prep Sports Academy in Atlanta before enrolling at either Campbell University in North Carolina or Mississippi State University, where he hopes to play football.
Much of Blake’s motive for selling drugs was to support his family after his mother lost her job and they were forced to move in with relatives, Burris-Alcide said.
Blake is “very motivated” to move on from his mistakes, said Burris-Alcide, who praised prosecutors for “fully investigating” Blake’s case and taking his age, first-time offender status and life situation into consideration before negotiating his plea.
“The fact that this was marijuana as opposed to heroin or methamphetamine,” Brackett said, and Blake’s having received no previous help with “his addiction issues,” contributed to prosecutors’ decision to offer drug court.
“It’s on him,” Brackett said. “If he does not succeed and squanders the opportunity he’s been given,” he could go to prison. “Everybody wants him to succeed. We don’t want him to relapse.
“A lot of people have faith in him. He’s got to make the decision every single day.”
The juvenile drug court program is shorter than its adult counterpart, and it is aimed at defendants who have pleaded guilty to crimes “not nearly as serious,” said Denise Stinson, juvenile programs manager for the solicitor’s office.
While in drug court, which could last from nine months to a year, Blake each Tuesday and Thursday will attend classes that focus on rehabilitation and life skills. He will be tested randomly for drug and alcohol use. If he fails a drug test or does not complete the program, he could go to prison for six years.
“You’re a very gifted young man, and with great gifts come great responsibility,” Judge Hayes told Blake, saying that for Blake to succeed, he’ll have to “change your playmates and change your playing grounds.”
After court, Blake told The Herald he plans to further his education.
“I want to continue to make my family, friends and the community happy,” he said.