Amir Banks, the juvenile retained on charges related to the drunk-driving accident that killed Clarke County teenager Aaron Shirley, was remanded to six months custody in the Northwest Juvenile Detention Center in Winchester by presiding Clarke County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Ronald L. Napier today.
As in previous hearings, today’s action was closed to the public and media because Banks is a minor.
Banks agreed to a plea deal in the case in October, 2010 shortly before he was scheduled to go on trial on charges of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, aggravated manslaughter, driving under the influence, and driving with too many minor passengers in his vehicle.
In today’s hearing Banks accepted charges of involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence. Banks was remanded into custody after the hearing and did not emerge from the courthouse.
Bank’s attorney, Paul Thomson, said after today’s hearing that in addition to the six-month detention period, which will include a substance abuse treatment program, Banks will also be subject to an extended probation period.
Commonwealth Attorney Suzanne Perka and Thomson, along with family members of Aaron Shirley and Amir Banks, emerged from the courtroom at 6:30pm EST after a three hour closed-door hearing.
Neither Perka nor members of either family were willing to comment on the outcome of the proceedings.
Attorney Thomson, however, described both Aaron Shirley and Amir Banks as significant contributors to Clarke County’s youth community and who frequently spent time at each other’s homes. “These were two extraordinarily good boys who were the best of friends.”
Thomson said that he could not thank the Shirley family enough for their role in the plea agreement proceedings. “These proceedings have been a real tribute to the Shirley family,” Thomson said. “Today they wished Amir well and said that they hoped he would become a beacon to the community. This is what makes Clarke County such a special place. The spirit of forgiveness here is really a message for the holiday season.”
Amir Banks was charged as the driver in the June 18, 2010 accident that took the life of Aaron Benjamin Shirley, 17, a rising senior at Clarke County High School. Aaron Shirley was the son of Reginald and Katherine Shirley.
According to Virginia State Police, Shirley was killed in a single-vehicle accident when the 1999 Dodge pickup truck he was riding in left the roadway and overturned before striking a tree around 11:45 p.m. on Summit Point Road (Route 611) just north of Berryville, Virginia.
Shirley, who was a passenger in the bed of the pickup, was ejected from the vehicle when the crash occurred. After the accident Shirley was transported to Winchester Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.
Banks, the driver of the pickup, and several juvenile passengers had allegedly just left a party where alcohol had been consumed. State Police records alleged that Banks’s blood alcohol reading on a breath test administered after the crash was 0.07. The legal blood alcohol limit for anyone under the age of 21 is 0.02.
Banks and the other passengers in the truck’s cab sustained non-life-threatening injuries. To date, Virginia State Police have not released information on where the teens obtained the alcohol that contributed to the accident.
Today’s sentencing will offer at least some closure to a Clarke County community that has been deeply torn and divided over the tragedy. Many questions still remain about how the community can prevent similar teen substance abuse problems in the future. Thomson said that Banks plans to make the best of the detention period and substance abuse treatment program and would like to someday be an example for others.
“My client wants to get past this tragedy and has plans for the future,” Thomson said. “He hopes to go on to college and play football.”