CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has ruled that the mother of a slain former Marshall University football player isn’t entitled to compensation for her son’s unpaid student loans.
On May 24, the court denied Angela Y. Smith’s request to have her appeal of a decision by the state’s Court of Claims heard. It did so in a 17-page order clarifying its choice.
Smith’s son Donte Newsome was a former linebacker/running back for the Thundering Herd when he was shot in 2008 by Jerel Garner.
Smith made a claim to the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund and the Court of Claims, and she was awarded the cost of medical, funeral and burial expenses.
In 2011, she requested a hearing to determine if reimbursement of unpaid student loans can be made under the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Act, which provides compensation to innocent victims of crime for injury suffered to their person or property.
The Court of Claims denied her request, and on June 26 she asked the Supreme Court to review.
“(T)he student loans at issue in this case are not subject to reimbursement under the Act because they were not loans that the decedent was unable to receive or use, in whole or in part, prior to his death,” Loughry wrote.
Loughry wrote that the three loans for which Smith sought reimbursement were for previous semesters.
During oral argument, Smith, who cosigned on the loans, indicated Newsome was not attending summer college classes at the time of his death but was going to return to college in the fall. However, none of the loans were for that fall semester, Loughry wrote.
Newsome, of Chesapeake, Va., moved from linebacker to running back during his junior season in 2004. He rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns that year.
In 2005, Newsome appeared in nine games but none on offense, registering 24 tackles.
He was 25 years old when Garner shot him in 2008 and was a member of the Amarillo Dusters of the Arena Football 2 League.
The shooting occurred outside the nightclub Fluid in Huntington. Garner claimed self-defense.
In 2010, Garner was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 21 to 25 years in prison.
The question presented in Smith’s appeal was whether unpaid student loans constitute “economic loss” that is subject to compensation from the victims fund.
Smith argued the Legislature, through broad and sweeping terms, meant to include all forms of financial assistance received for college, and that it would be counter-intuitive to rule the Legislature intended to limit compensation to merit, academic or athletic scholarships.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.