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Teen who pleaded to hate crime gets probation

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mercedes Ayers talks to media Sept. 13 at Washington Park in Cape Girardeau.
(Adam Vogler)
A 41-year-old Cape Girardeau woman and her teenage attacker both tearfully told a judge Monday how their lives have been inexorably changed by their previous encounter -- when the high-school student was punching and kicking the openly gay women in front of the woman's home.

Mercedes Ayers, 17, was sentenced to five years of probation by Judge William Syler after pleading guilty last month to third-degree assault that was elevated to a felony charge because a hate crime designation was added. Ayers swore until the day she pleaded guilty that the attack hadn't happened the way that Terry claimed.

Syler could have sentenced Ayers, who was certified as an adult to face the charges, to up to four years. Instead, he added conditions to her probation, including full restitution of Terry's medical bills, a directive to finish her education and to attend counseling for anger management and for tolerating those with alternative lifestyles.

Both defendant and victim would have their say in court, but it was Syler's admonition, perhaps, that resonated the loudest to Ayers.

"It's your age that is keeping you out of prison at this point," Syler told her.

Ayers was warned by the longtime judge that she was getting her "last chance" in his courtroom and that the words that he had written on her file would remind him of that fact.

"You see this?" he said, holding up the file for her to see. "It says zero tolerance."

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle recommended to the judge that Ayers receive probation and also asked for those conditions. Both the judge and Swingle acknowledged that Ayers age had something to do with their leniency.

"If she were just a few years older, I'd be standing here asking you to send her to prison," Swingle said.

Before the sentence was handed down, Jeana Terry had her chance to read from a 10-page statement she had prepared. In it, she said she was not sure how she felt about Ayers receiving probation with no prison time. She said that Ayers and the others who beat her don't appreciate what they have put her through.

With Terry's partner, Lisa Lang, weeping in the gallery, Terry went on to describe dizziness caused by the head trauma and the pain that would make brushing her teeth or tying her shoes difficult. The beating put her in the hospital and caused her to miss work.

At some points, it seemed too much to bear, she said.

She even admitted that she wondered if "maybe it wouldn't have been better if they had killed me that day."

Ultimately, though, Terry said she just wanted to feel safe again.

In the three months that have passed, though, Terry said the dizzy spells have resided and she's starting to feel some of the confidence Ayers stole from her returning.

She again asked Ayers to become the person she should be, not one full of hate and anger.

For her part, Ayers did appear to show remorse, something Terry said that had been absent.

"I apologize for everything," Ayers said, tears streaming down her face. "I wouldn't cause any more pain like that, not intentionally. And I'm going to do my best to change my ways."

She also promised the judge that she intended to finish high school. Her public defender, Jennifer Slone, also told the judge that she believes Ayers is about to change course. When Slone first met her young client, Ayers told her that she wanted to go to college and on to dental school.

"It is not a likelihood, but a certainty that this is a turning point for Mercedes," Slone said.

Still, Syler displayed a bit of skepticism, saying he was not convinced.

"Because of your age," Syler said, "I'm not really certain that you understand how serious this is."

Ayers interjected, insisting that she did.

Said Syler: "That is yet to be determined."



Pertinent address:

100 Court St., Jackson, MO

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A lot of good probation is going to do !!!!!!!!!!

-- Posted by bagman75 on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 1:30 PM

bet she is arrested again within 12 months

-- Posted by racer3694 on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 1:34 PM

She'll be back in jail before the end of the year. It's impossible for people like that to get any better than what they are. Oh, and that face scares me.

-- Posted by Bahama on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 1:46 PM

That will teach her a lesson!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Posted by arrestthem on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 1:48 PM

This is really disappointing. I hope someome victimizes her the way she has done others. I would say an eye for an eye since our justice system has failed.

-- Posted by MINT4U on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 1:51 PM

yea what does it take to get justice around here. they seem to always get out of being responsible for their actions, must been afraid of a riot if she would gotten time.

-- Posted by bagman75 on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 2:00 PM

She will be back in the system within 6 months.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 2:20 PM

Squeaky clean Mercedes and I mean SQUEAKY CLEAN!!

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 3:23 PM

I agree with you Me'Lange! Community service would have been a good choice in addition to probation. I don't understand Judge Sylers thinking!

-- Posted by Spinning on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 4:14 PM

Probation. What a joke! Yet another fist to the face of her victim!!

-- Posted by whyowhy on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 4:40 PM

Miss Ayers has been given a chance to redeem herself and I hope that she realizes that.

-- Posted by Walrus gumboot on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 4:41 PM

This same judge has said "no tolerance" on other probation people, including the girl who was put on probation only to get caught again then told "no tolerance". Then she was in a bar (which is a violation) got completely drunk (another violation) and started a fight where someone got killed. She was so upset about the incident, she went to the bar the next night (another violation). What did judge syler do? Nothing. Never saw one day in jail for a probation violation, including the first time she was pir on probation. It will take an act of god for him to revoke her probation.

-- Posted by Thelegend on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 4:41 PM

What a shame to justice.

-- Posted by retired1 on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 4:51 PM

Silly Rabbit! Hate Crimes are for whites!

-- Posted by thewonder on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 5:13 PM

I agree with Me'Lange. Community service of some sort and length might have made an impact. Walking away with a warning is not a punishment that fits the crime.

-- Posted by Dug on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 6:45 PM

They need to arrest the judge for FAILURE to do his job!

-- Posted by webnjackson on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 7:53 PM

Two thumbs up for teaching her a lesson.

-- Posted by Blondie78 on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 9:03 PM

Let's hope that this kid has learned something, can find some good examples in her life and can go on to contribute to our community, she has been given a big break, now let's support her.

Good luck Mercedes

-- Posted by whube on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 9:20 PM

She has a felony on her record that will never leave for the rest of her life. It will impact her employment opportunities from now on. Don't worry about 100 hours community service. As you know, there are many of us that work that much every two weeks and we won't be hiring Ms. Ayers....ever.

Good luck to her. She is going to need it.

-- Posted by rodgerdodger on Mon, Nov 5, 2012, at 11:28 PM

"She has a felony on her record that will never leave for the rest of her life."

rodgerdodger, KFVS reported if she does not violate her probation, her record will be expunged aka she will have not have a permanent criminal record at all.

-- Posted by chocolate thread on Tue, Nov 6, 2012, at 3:18 AM

Judge Syler needs to GO, bottom line! Sick of his bad, unpredictable, unexplainable justice that his circus of a courtroom reeks with.

-- Posted by muthatrucker on Tue, Nov 6, 2012, at 6:36 AM

I knew what the verdict would be before it ever started. This is what's wrong with the whole judicial system and it will never change.

-- Posted by cardsfan61 on Tue, Nov 6, 2012, at 6:52 AM

She is 17 years old and at least should have the chance for probation. Judge Syler did the right thing. Hopefully the girl can turn her life around. Prison doesn't solve anything, just makes people worse.

-- Posted by Thinking for myself on Tue, Nov 6, 2012, at 9:04 AM

I know her mom, she wont make it.

-- Posted by steak66 on Tue, Nov 6, 2012, at 9:04 AM

Judge Syler doesn't sound like he has changed much.

As the saying goes, 'If Central Casting was looking for someone who looks just like a ----- should look like on the screen'.

Still remember the, um, lecture that he gave my client at a sentencing hearing. But I also well remember the 'good job' comment that he gave me even after a jury found the same client guilty.

The young lady was indeed lucky. Syler could have easily bypassed Morley's probation rec with little sweat to his conscience if he honestly felt that she needed to learn a lesson the hard way.

-- Posted by Conslr on Tue, Nov 6, 2012, at 9:49 AM

Please everyone just remember we all have made our own share of mistakes. Yes what she and the other kids did to me was very wrong. But i feel if she can learn from this and becomes the person she said she wants to be we both WIN!! Mercedes i meant every word i said that day in court "I will never forget what happened that day but i do forgive you and the other kids as well. Just please make your dreams come true. Then it wont be for nothing in my eyes. Everyone just let go of the hate life is to short. We need to make the best of it we can.

-- Posted by Blueyedragon70 on Wed, Nov 7, 2012, at 12:58 PM

I have to say the sentence is inappropriately too light. I, for one, do not believe rehabilitation is possible, and I am concerned about what she will do to others in the future.

-- Posted by Beaker on Wed, Nov 7, 2012, at 9:20 PM

JTerry, Your compassion is amazing. What a wonderful outlook of life. I totally agree this world needs alot more love,forgiveness, compassion. Lets all follow her example and let the hate stop here. Mercedes, Please take advantage of this opportunity and change your life. Show everyone you can change, let go of the hate and be the best you can be. Good luck to both Jeana and Mercedes, may God bless you.

-- Posted by framlady51 on Thu, Nov 8, 2012, at 9:46 AM

JTerry, You have my respect !!! I completely agree with you. How do we fight hate ? Surely not WITH hate. Doesnt that just fuel the whole idea of hate ? If we truely want to get rid of hate we must forgive and promote love. I do understand the anger some of you have but hating a hater is losing the fight. Love each other we are all we have :)

-- Posted by sk8tamom on Sun, Nov 11, 2012, at 9:58 AM

An earlier commenter said "Support Mercedes" You will,if you pay your taxes. 1 way or another. Keep it in jail,give it welfare,whatever,it is a lost cause.

-- Posted by rogertodd38 on Thu, Jan 17, 2013, at 6:49 PM

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