INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Andrew Coffee IV started crying Tuesday as he begged a judge to have mercy on him and give him a second chance. Coffee has been sitting in the Indian River County Jail since a deadly 2017 drug raid that claimed the life of his girlfriend Alteria Woods.
“I made mistakes. I have done my best to correct these errors. I have been in prison for five years. I want to change for the better, for the people who love me,” Coffee shouted at Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn. “I want to visit (Woods) grave. If you give me probation and time served, you won’t regret it.
More tears flowed in the courtroom as Coffee, his family, and the family of Alteria Woods appeared before Vaughn for Coffee’s sentencing.
Coffee, now 28, avoided a possible life sentence last November after a six-person jury found him not guilty of murder and attempted murder. But, the jury convicted Coffee of possession of a firearm on a convicted felon charge.
Woods was fatally struck 10 times after being caught in a crossfire between Coffee County and Indian River sheriff’s deputies during the nighttime raid. Medical examiners later determined that Woods died from bullets fired by deputies.
The room was quiet Tuesday as Vaughn prepared to read Coffee’s sentencing. Prosecutors were seeking a 30-year sentence for prior unrelated offenses committed by Coffee in Indian River and St. Lucie counties.
Coffee’s family members hugged moments before Vaughn was to hand down the sentence on Tuesday. Vaughn ordered Coffee to serve 10 years in the Florida Department of Corrections with 4.9 years of credited time.
This reduces Coffee’s prison sentence to about five years and one month, defense attorney Adam Chrzan said. Vaughn also named Coffee a repeat offender and ordered him to pay $200 in prosecution costs.
Coffee’s defense attorneys have 30 days to appeal Vaughn’s decision.
Vaughn’s decision concludes a nearly five-year saga stemming from a 5:30 a.m. drug raid on March 19, 2017, at a home in the 4500 block of 35th Avenue in Gifford. Coffee, also known as “AJ,” stayed in the tiny house with his father – Coffee III – and grandmother Vivian Scott.
Family members said Coffee – who worked two jobs – was staying at the residence to help care for Scott and pay the bills. Coffee IV was not the target of the raid, authorities said. The deputies were instead looking for his father.
Deputies detained Father Café III at the main door of the house while the sky was still dark. SWAT team members then smashed a window into a bedroom where young Coffee and Woods were sleeping in their beds.
Officers said they were unsure if anyone was in the room.
Members of the SWAT team detonated a flash bang inside the chamber. Defense attorneys have previously said the blast can leave a person disoriented by causing temporary blindness and deafness.
SWAT team officers – including those who fired shots in the raid – said they announced themselves aloud by saying “sheriff’s office search warrant” on several occasions. Defense attorneys argued that Coffee didn’t hear the announcements mostly from the commotion.
“He was in a deep sleep and woke up with the flash and the breaking of glass,” Chrzan said.
Coffee has previously said he shot what he believed to be intruders at the home, defense attorneys said.
Four months after the raid, prosecutors, using findings from the sheriff’s office investigation, exonerated the officers who had fired. These officers have been identified as Cpl. Patrick White, retired Indian River Shores officer Richard ‘Rick’ Sarcinello and Sgt. Christopher Reave. In the same move, prosecutors charged Coffee with Woods’ death and said he committed a crime he knew would cause harm to others.
Prosecutors also charged Coffee with three counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and firing a missile at a building. At the end of Coffee’s trial, the jury found him not guilty of murder, attempted murder, and firing a missile at an apartment building.
The jury ruled on the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charge separately from the other charges. The jury returned a guilty verdict on the firearms charge.
Vaughn denied Coffee’s Stand Your Ground immunity request last June. Defense attorneys said they plan to appeal Vaughn’s decision, but it’s unclear when.
Plea for a second chance
Coffee’s mother, Towanna Austin, and Woods’ mother, Yolanda Woods, went ahead of Vaughn. Woods described Coffee as a loving, kind person who was meant to be more. Woods said Coffee wanted to make those around him proud – including Alteria Woods.
“I know Andrew’s love for Alteria,” Woods said. Woods, his voice shaking with emotion, shed tears as he shouted at Vaughn.
“I pray that God touches your heart. Choose redemption over revenge,” Woods said. “Coffee has suffered enough already, just like my family lost Alteria. Alteria) in prison. I ask you to release him.
Austin asked Vaughn to have mercy on Coffee.
“Nobody’s perfect. He made mistakes along the way,” Austin said. “He was thinking about going back to school.
After Vaughn read the sentence, Coffee’s family and Woods went down the hall. Austin and Woods cried as they hugged.
But, Austin said the tears weren’t of sadness.
“Me and Yolanda are happy. We want to thank you for believing in AJ,” Austin told defense attorneys, detailing how Coffee avoided a much longer sentence. “I am so grateful to you.”
Pictures of Kaila Jones