First a federal prosecutor accused Vandetta Redwood of handing a loaded gun to a child bullied by another teen two years ago and telling her to “shoot that b—.”
Then, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Nasser said Redwood could face 15 years in prison for her role in the 2014 brawl that ended with the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Endia Martin. That’s when Redwood broke down hysterically Tuesday in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, screaming “I didn’t do this!” as U.S. marshals dragged her from the courtroom.
St. Eve eventually ordered Redwood, 34, held in federal custody. Her ruling capped a bizarre hearing at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in which Redwood abruptly fired her lawyer, Sheldon Sorosky, after he vigorously argued for her release. Sorosky went as far as to say of Redwood, “I don’t know how you could have a more perfect mother.”
Redwood’s own 12-year-old daughter was among the two dozen children in the fracas when Redwood allegedly handed a teenage relative a .38-special revolver and told her to pull the trigger, Nasser said. The girl, then 14, allegedly did as she was told and wound up killing Martin. Nasser said Redwood’s crime was “beyond heinous,” and she urged St. Eve to detain her despite Redwood’s lack of criminal history.
“She’s completely distraught and desperate,” Nasser said.
The judge also said she would entertain trial dates as early as May 9 for Redwood at a hearing next week. Prosecutors are seeking an early trial because juvenile witnesses may feel stress over their need to testify.
After long dodging charges in connection with Martin’s April 28, 2014, shooting death, Redwood was hit with a federal indictment last week and accused of supplying the gun that killed Martin, as well as possessing it within 1,000 feet of two schools. She has pleaded not guilty.
The teenage girl accused of pulling the trigger is awaiting trial in Cook County juvenile court. A Cook County jury found Redwood’s cousin, Donnell Flora, guilty last month of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Prosecutors also said he supplied the gun, which allegedly passed between the teen and the two adults multiple times before the shooting in the 900 block of West Garfield.
When called to testify in Flora’s trial, Redwood repeatedly invoked her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. A senior source in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has said an investigation into Redwood’s role in the shooting is ongoing.
Martin’s best friend, Lanekia Reynolds, was also injured in the shooting. Reynolds had been fighting with the alleged shooter on social media after the two got into a heated spat over a boy, prosecutors said.
Redwood was charged in Cook County shortly after Martin’s death with mob action and obstruction of justice, but a judge quickly dismissed the case. She still wound up in a Cook County lockup in April 2014, though, and Nasser read recorded comments Tuesday that Redwood allegedly made while she was there alone.
Redwood allegedly said, “I ain’t gonna let nobody put s— on me … I’m not going down for nobody …F— these bitches … I’m not going to no mother—f—ing jail …I ain’t going down. I ain’t going down.”
Dressed in red jail scrubs, Redwood listened quietly Tuesday until Nasser mentioned the potential punishment for her alleged crimes. That’s when Redwood pulled away from Sorosky, writhing and screaming until she was taken to a holding cell. Her wails could still be heard in the courtroom, but she eventually calmed down and returned.
“Take a few deep breaths,” St. Eve told her. “You are presumed innocent of these charges.”
Nasser said Redwood had a similar reaction at her arraignment last week, held before the case was unsealed. The prosecutor pointed to Redwood’s hysterics and said Redwood knows the juveniles likely to testify against her because she watched Flora’s trial last month.
But Sorosky said Redwood has no criminal history and has held a steady job at McDonald’s for eight years. He also mentioned the ruling by Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr., who found video evidence in the case “choppy” and “poor” as he dismissed charges against Redwood in 2014. Nasser handed stills from the video Tuesday to St. Eve.
“The photographs are vague, unclear, sketchy,” Sorosky said.
Sorosky said Redwood is paranoid and wouldn’t trust him until she realized he once represented imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A short time later, Redwood abruptly told the judge, “I don’t want him to be my lawyer.”
“Then I won’t be your lawyer,” Sorosky said before handing the case over to a federal public defender.