In her first national interview since learning that she would not be charged for a science project gone wrong, 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot talks with commentator Roland Martin and the Tom Joyner Morning Show crew about her future, the fears she has developed since the incident and what’s next for her future.
She was joined by her mom Marie Wilmot and their attorney Larry Hardaway. [Read the full interview below]
ROLAND MARTIN: Tom, we talked about the story last week of the Florida teen, 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot with a science experiment that went array. Well, this week prosecutors in Florida declined to not press felony charges against her. The charges were dropped. She has not talked to anybody else. We have her exclusively this morning, with her mother Marie, as well as their attorney, Larry Hardaway. Kiera ?
KIERA WILMOT : Hello.
ROLAND MARTIN : Good morning, how are you?
KIERA WILMOT : I’m good, how are you?
ROLAND MARTIN : Doing great. How did it feel when your attorney told you, Kiera , they’re dropping the charges?
KIERA WILMOT : I felt really good. I was very happy.
ROLAND MARTIN : Now has this hurt your whole view of wanting to go into science and your love affair with science?
KIERA WILMOT : Uh, yes. Very much.
ROLAND MARTIN : So what? You’re going to stop doing science stuff? Or you still want to pursue that when you go to college?
KIERA WILMOT : I want to pursue it when I go to college, but I feel scared to do it now.
ROLAND MARTIN : Mmm. Now your mom, Marie, is there as well. Marie, I got to ask you. You gave an interview with Orlando Sentinel where you talked about this has drained your finances.
MARIE WILMOT: You know, you prepare for some expectancies in life, but this is one of those things that we were not planning on.
TOM JOYNER : What did it cost you?
MARIE WILMOT: Well, we still haven’t finished the main costs, we haven’t finished all the lawyer fees and everything, but just the costs of taking time off from work, driving back and forth to meet with the attorney and different people to get this resolved. And just being out and about. Our whole life has changed.
TOM JOYNER : Roland, what’s the story? What’s the back story here? What’s the, what happened to Kiera ?
ROLAND MARTIN : The story is a young lady, science experiment, and she was performing it before school. And it sort of exploded, but it wasn’t a major explosion, smoke began to rise. And the school district has a zero tolerance policy, suspends her, kicks her out of school. She has to go to the alternate school, and then all of the sudden because of the laws there in Florida – and correct me if I’m wrong Larry Hardaway, the attorney – they say they were going to pursue, or look at, felony charges against her, somehow as if she was making some kind of bomb or something. It was just, it was unbelievable. Larry?
LARRY HARDAWAY: Well, that is true. The officer from the Bartow Police Department did in fact file two felony charges against this child, I think inappropriately, but he did. And because he did she was actually arrested, handcuffed at school, and taken to the juvenile assessment center to be processed. Under Florida law, the State Attorney’s Office, because she’s older than the age of 14, she could be charged as an adult. Those kind of offenses that serious are likely considered for an adult felony, and so she would be charged with two felony offenses as an adult and will be facing prison time.
TOM JOYNER : And not walk and graduate.
LARRY HARDAWAY: Correct, without a doubt.
SYBIL WILKES : There are no charges, but wasn’t there a diversion program? Is that a part of this.
ROLAND MARTIN : Right. Let’s talk – go ahead, Larry.
LARRY HARDAWAY: Yes, a diversion program is an alternative to the formal prosecution process. It allows for the dismissal of the charges based upon some requested conditions of the agreement that the accused would have to do. And that’s in fact what we’ve done in this case.
ROLAND MARTIN : Now Larry, that’s the criminal side, and Marie, and Kiera as well, now you still got to deal with the school side, because you were playing the cello, you were in the band, but now you’re in this alternative school. So where does that stand you getting back into your original high school versus finishing your career in this alternative school?
KIERA WILMOT : The alternative school I do not have the orchestra class where I play my instrument. It’s just so different there. I don’t know how to – I’m hoping to go back to Bartow High School for my senior year but that has not been resolved yet.
ROLAND MARTIN : Larry, where does that stand?
LARRY HARDAWAY: That stands, we’re still in negotiation. I’m going to probably have more contact with them this afternoon. I’m trying to get them to give me some firm commitment as to the direction that they’re going to take and then we’re going to then involve ourselves in that direction in hoping to get it done.
ROLAND MARTIN: Let’s be clear the principal said this is a great student. She’s not a troubled teen. She was a phenomenal student. And so Larry, and Marie, what you’re saying is the school district should be saying look at this on a case by case basis.
LARRY HARDAWAY: Yes, and we’ve asked them to do that. And I think there’s enough reason for them to do it at this point. And so their comments solely in the paper have been a little ambiguous about how we’re going to handle this, but I’m hoping that from this point on, since the State Attorney’s office, has fully dropped all the charges that we now can get into a direction in the negotiations that’s going to be in the best interest of the child.
SYBIL WILKES : Has public support played a part in the release of the charges?
LARRY HARDAWAY: Absolutely.
MARIE WILMOT: Mm-hmm.
TOM JOYNER : That’s good.
LARRY HARDAWAY: There has been hundreds of thousands of opinions made and most of them have been directed here to this county.
TOM JOYNER : So Kiera , you’re going into your senior year?
KIERA WILMOT : Yes, sir.
TOM JOYNER : And what school are you going to finish your high school career?
SYBIL WILKES : That you hope to.
KIERA WILMOT : Bartow Senior High.
TOM JOYNER : The original school.
ROLAND MARTIN : Right, but they have to work it out with the school district, but right now she is in the alternative school. She wants to go back to her original high school.
TOM JOYNER : And when you go to college what do you want to major in?
KIERA WILMOT : Technology engineering.
ROLAND MARTIN : Well, let me say this, Kiera . I understand it was frightful, it was scary, but STEM is a major, major area. Folks are looking at Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. And I would say have the faith, have the courage to still do your passion and still do what you do and don’t allow this to stop you from doing that. And trust me, lots of folks are out here, lots of scientists, I’ve got emails, people are pulling for you. And really stay on that path as best as you can.
SYBIL WILKES : Get back up on that bicycle and ride again, girl.
TOM JOYNER : Yeah.
SYBIL WILKES : Keep, keep pursuing your dream.
KIERA WILMOT : I’m going to get off the bicycle and try the unicycle.
TOM JOYNER : I like her.
ROLAND MARTIN : Kiera Wilmot, Marie, Larry Hardaway, we appreciate you giving us this exclusive interview on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, thank you.
TOM JOYNER : And mamma Marie, we love you.
MARIE WILMOT: Thank you. We love you too.