A Little Rock woman accused of conspiring to destroy public property, including police cars, during a series of demonstrations held in the summer and fall of 2020 pleaded guilty to one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device in federal court Wednesday.
Brittany Dawn Jeffrey, 32, was accused along with four other people of numerous federal violations in connection with the firebombing of police cars belonging to Little Rock and North Little Rock police and Arkansas State Police in late August of 2020. She pleaded guilty Wednesday to the single count contained in a superseding information in exchange for the dismissal of all counts contained in the indictment against her.
She faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon sentencing.
As Jeffrey, who is being held in pre-trial detention at the Pulaski County Jail, was escorted into the courtroom, she smiled and gave a wave toward a gallery that was packed with supporters.
Despite the seriousness of the matter, the hearing proceeded with a vein of levity as Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., quizzed Jeffrey regarding her state of mind and her understanding of the charge against her, asking whether her attorney had adequately explained her legal situation to her.
"Thoroughly," Jeffrey answered.
"Good," responded Marshall. "I like that word, thoroughly. Lawyers do well when they are thorough."
Marshall asked Jeffrey if she had carefully gone over her plea agreement with her attorney, Phillip Hamilton of New York, and if she understood it.
"Have you read it?" he asked.
"Yes," Jeffrey replied.
"More than once?"
"More than once."
"Have you gone through it with Mr. Hamilton?" Marshall asked. "Has he explained it to you?"
"Thoroughly," Jeffrey said.
"Good," Marshall said, as laughter rippled through the gallery. "I'm going to write that word down since that seems to be the watchword of our hearing."
According to a summary of facts contained in the plea agreement, Jeffrey, along with co-defendant Mujera Benjamin Lung'aho and four others not named, met at her residence after a protest at Little Rock's 12th Street Substation on Aug. 26 where the group formed a plan to vandalize police cars in the central Arkansas area. After one person left to buy gasoline, two incendiary devices -- Molotov cocktails -- were assembled at her home using gasoline, beer bottles and bed sheets.
The summary said the six people drove around the Little Rock metro area looking for police cars at substations located in Shannon Hills, the Levy Substation in North Little Rock, and the 12th Street Substation. At the 12th Street Substation, the summary said, four people including Jeffrey and Lung'aho got out and began slashing tires and breaking out windows of patrol cars.
Although a Molotov cocktail was lit and thrown into the lot, a surveillance video taken about 2:30 a.m. that day showed that the device burned out as it was tossed over the fence.
After reading through the summary, Jeffrey asked for a brief recess to confer with her attorney. A few minutes later, Marshall re-emerged into the courtroom and took his place at the bench.
"Are you ready to go?" he asked Jeffrey.
"When you are," Jeffrey replied.
After reading the charge to her, Marshall asked for her plea.
"Guilty," she answered, her voice steady.
"Is that because you are, in fact, guilty?" Marshall asked.
"Yes, sir," Jeffrey replied.
Referring to the summary of facts Jeffrey had read over prior to her plea, Marshall asked if the facts contained in the document were accurate. Jeffrey replied they were. Marshall then asked Jeffrey to describe the conduct she had engaged in that led to her arrest, prosecution and subsequent guilty plea.
"I know when there were plans to vandalize cars, myself included," she said. "I know that Emily, Terry and Mujera Lung'aho possessed Molotov cocktails. I know that I slashed tires, and I know that I threw lug nuts at the back police windows."
"To break the windows?" Marshall asked.
"Yes, sir," Jeffrey said.
"And the gathering to discuss doing this, the protest and the vandalism, did this occur, like the plea agreement says, at your house?" Marshall asked.
Jeffrey confirmed that it did.
"Have you thought hard about which way to go?" Marshall asked. "Offer a plea or go to trial?"
"For a long time, sir," Jeffrey answered.
"Talked thoroughly to [Hamilton] about that?" Marshall asked, as another round of laughter rippled through the gallery.
"Very thoroughly," Jeffrey answered.
Satisfied with Jeffrey's assurances that she had given the matter much thought, Marshall agreed to accept her plea.
"I see before me a woman who has thought carefully about what to do and considered her options, worked with her lawyer and come to a decision that this plea agreement is the best way to work through the circumstances that she faces," Marshall said.
Jeffrey will be scheduled for sentencing after completion of a pre-sentencing report by the U.S. Probation Office, a process that normally takes between 90 and 120 days.