Attorney: Ex-Charter School Principal Jovan Weaver Accepts Responsibility in Fatal Hit-and-Run

Jovan Weaver
The Philadelphia Inquirer

by Julie Shaw and Maddie Hanna

A former Mastery charter school principal charged in a fatal 2017 hit-and-run “has always accepted responsibility for his conduct,” his attorney said Tuesday.

Jovan Weaver, 37, who resigned last week as principal of John Wister Elementary in Germantown, “accepted his conduct for striking a pedestrian,” defense attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. said after a court appearance at which Weaver waived his preliminary hearing on charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident, and tampering with evidence. Perri said:

Mr. Weaver is deeply saddened and haunted by the consequences of his conduct related to this tragic accident. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t say a prayer to the victim and the family members for the loss of a loved one.

Court records show that about 10 p.m. Dec. 26, 2017, Weaver was driving a red Lexus east on City Avenue when he drove into the left-turn lane near 54th Street so that he could pass another motorist. He allegedly hit a 58-year-old man walking in the crosswalk on City Avenue, then drove off.

The victim, Anthony Rogers, who lived nearby in Overbrook, was taken to Lankenau Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead that night.

About 7:30 a.m. the next morning on a Logan street, police found a damaged Lexus registered to Weaver that appeared to have been burned inside. He was interviewed by police with his attorney on Dec. 29, 2017, and admitted to being the car’s driver and being involved in the accident.

Weaver declined to comment Tuesday about his criminal case after his brief appearance before Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon.

“I love my school,” he simply told reporters as he waited on the first floor of the Stout Center for Criminal Justice for a driver to pick him up. “I love the community.”

Weaver, of East Germantown, was profiled in a WHYY podcast in April 2018 that focused on his rise from childhood trauma, neglect, and abuse to become principal in 2016 of the mostly low-income Wister Elementary in a neighborhood where kids are not immune to gun violence.

He faces a July 9 arraignment, and his case could move forward to a trial or plea hearing.

Asked why he wasn’t arrested and charged in the case until April of this year, a police spokesperson said by email: “The elements of the case remained and still remain under investigation.”

Court records show that last fall, investigators obtained evidence from his cellphone that showed him near the location in Logan where his burned Lexus had been found in the hours after the crash.

As Weaver got into a car to leave the courthouse Tuesday, the victim’s loved ones watched.

A woman who earlier identified herself as a sister of Rogers’ yelled afterward: “I don’t care if you’re a principal. Whatever. He’s wrong.”

Mastery Charter Schools, in an emailed statement Tuesday, said: “We were upset and deeply disturbed to learn that the principal of our Mastery Wister Elementary, Jovan Weaver, has been charged with vehicular homicide and related offenses.

“We learned the news of his arrest last week and immediately placed Mr. Weaver on administrative leave to investigate. Mr. Weaver resigned the following day and is no longer a Mastery employee. He informed staff on Friday, June 14, and parents were notified on Monday, June 17.

“This is a very sad day for the Wister community. Mr. Weaver did an outstanding job leading the school’s turnaround for the past three years. Students, parents, and staff spoke often about their love and admiration for him. We recognize that this is a terrible, terrible tragedy and our hearts and prayers go out to the family who lost a loved one.”

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