FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The woman prosecutors say orchestrated a series of attacks on female shoppers outside and near Publix grocery stores in Broward County earlier this year is expected to sentenced on Wednesday.
Prosecutors want a sentence of more than 16 years for Tranisha Epps. Her attorney is asking for much less, saying the teen should be sentenced as a youthful offender.
One of her victims, a woman named Sydney, who declined to give her last name, believes Epps should get the maximum.
“Beating on and taking advantage and frightening a 75-year-old that is going to live with us for the balance of my life is no way for her to get an easy way out,” Sydney said.
Sydney was attacked last January arriving at her Plantation neighborhood after a quick shopping trip to Publix. Surveillance cameras captured a car following her in.
Police say the occupants of that car — Epps, Erica Abraham and a young man — intentionally rear ended Sydney, pepper sprayed her, punched her…and stole her purse and car. They left Sydney — beaten and battered — lying in the median of the road.
“I was in my community,” she said. “It never dawned on me that this would happen.”
Sydney is sharing her story publicly for the first time as Tarnisha Epps, the woman prosecutors say orchestrated the attack on Sydney and others in a sweeping crime spree last January, is due to be sentenced on Wednesday.
“She not only hurt me, she hurt other people,” Sydney said. “She took advantage of other people. She and her two associates did this not once, not on a whim. It was planned. It was carried out. They knew what they wanted to do and how they were going to do it.”
It’s been a long and emotionally draining year for Sydney. She suffered multiple physical injuries from the attack and the emotional scars are ever-present. She deals with almost paralyzing fear and anxiety and says her personality has changed dramatically since the violent incident.
“I can’t go out at night by myself. When I’m in a crowd I have to stand against a wall because the thought of anyone coming up from behind me, frightens me,” she said.
Earlier this month, Epps’ attorney, David Seltzer, filed a court motion outlining the reasons that the judge should sentence Epps as a youthful offender.
“Ms. Epps has had a life long history of behavior disorders, possibly attributed to her low IQ, history of sexual abuse and mental and physical trauma,” he said. “The treatment required for her, at minimum, would be intensive with the additional factors of being a teen mother and her current predicament compounding the issues.”
Epps, who faces criminal charges in more than half a dozen cases, spoke in court last month, expressing remorse for her actions.
“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done and I’m sorry for the pain I’ve caused towards the victims and towards my family,” Epps said.
But those words ring hollow to Sydney, a strong, confident, outgoing woman, who lives with the pain and trauma of the vicious attack.
“I like to think the best of people, not the worst and now I’m skeptical of everybody and everything and it’s not a nice thing to feel. It really isn’t. It’s not who I am,” she said.
Sydney said she wanted to share her story for several reasons.
First, She wants the community to know what this group of attackers did to her and why they need to be severely punished.
Second, she wants to empower other victims of crime to have the confidence to share their stories and finally, for people to think twice before getting out of their cars if they’re rear ended in a similar accident.