Former Philly charter school principal, Jovan Weaver, charged with vehicular homicide, waives hearing

Jovan Weaver, the former principal of Philadelphia’s Mastery Charter School at John Wister Elementary in Germantown enters court for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday morning. Weaver is charged with vehicular homicide.  (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Jovan Weaver, the former principal of Philadelphia’s Mastery Charter School at John Wister Elementary in Germantown enters court for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday morning. Weaver is charged with vehicular homicide. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated 4:45 p.m.

Emotions flared outside a Philadelphia courthouse Tuesday in the case of a fatal hit and run — with the family members of both the victim and the accused confronting each other in the street.

Jovan Weaver, the former principal of Philadelphia’s Mastery Charter School at John Wister Elementary in Germantown, waived a preliminary hearing in a case charging him with vehicular homicide and evidence tampering. The case is now set to proceed to trial, with arraignment set for July 9, 2019.

If convicted Weaver, 37, faces up to 19 years in prison.

Prosecutors allege that Weaver was driving a red Lexus when he struck Anthony Rodgers, 58, on December 26, 2017 at approximately 10 p.m. on City Avenue near St. Joseph’s University. According to court documents, the accident occurred as Weaver sped past a car in the right lane and hit Rodgers crossing the intersection of 54th Street.  

Weaver then fled the scene without giving aid, and Rodgers, of Wynnfield, was pronounced dead at Lankenau Hospital at 10:45 p.m, according to the affidavit.

Police found an abandoned red Lexus on Courtland Street in North Philadelphia the following morning. Using video and cell phone tower records, prosecutors concluded Weaver left the car there and then returned with an accomplice in an attempt to burn the vehicle.

Following the hearing Tuesday, Weaver declined interviews with reporters, saying only, “I love my school. I love the community.”

Former Wister principal Jovan Weaver on graduation day. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

As he left Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center, the scene included a gaggle of television cameras and a verbal altercation between Weaver’s mother, Robin, and members of Rodgers’ family.

“Your son killed my brother and left him there and they tried to torch the car. We didn’t do nothing wrong. He’s the man that did something wrong. Don’t come confront me about nothing,” said Tonia Rodgers, sister of the victim as she walked away from the courthouse with tears in her eyes.

“He’s in the wrong,” she said. “I don’t give a heck if you’re a principal.”

Other members of Rodgers’ family, including his daughter, declined to comment for this story.

Rodgers’ niece, who asked to go unnamed, said:

“The thing that upsets my family the most is — we understand accidents happen — but why didn’t you stay at the scene? And then you tried to destroy evidence. If your career, your life, your family means that much to you, you should have just stayed at the scene.”

Weaver’s attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr. offered this statement:

“Mr. Weaver’s deeply saddened and haunted by the consequences of his conduct related to this tragic accident. From the moment this incident happened, he’s accepted his responsibility. And not a day goes by that he doesn’t say a prayer for the victim and the victim’s family for the loss of a loved one. He was a well-respected educator in the city for close to a decade and he’s obviously lost that opportunity.”

News reports in the days after Rodgers’ death include video footage of the accident as well as photos of the damaged Lexus.

In a statement, Mastery said it learned of the charges against Weaver last week (even though he had been charged in April) and put him on administrative leave. He then resigned, notified staff on June 14 and parents on 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,” said the statement.

It is yet unclear why it took prosecutors 15 months to file charges against Weaver. According to the affidavit, he met with police less than 72 hours after the incident and signed a statement affirming he was the driver of the Lexus involved in the hit and run.

Weaver became principal at Wister in 2016 and was the lead subject of the second season of WHYY’s Schooled podcast. The long-form story chronicled Wister’s transition from a traditional public school to one run by Mastery. It profiled Weaver’s journey overcoming a traumatic childhood growing up in Strawberry Mansion. He attended Penn State University and became an accountant, but switched careers to become an educator in hopes of being a role model for disadvantaged youth of color.

He later became a founding member of the Black Male Educators for Social Justice, a Philadelphia-based group that advocates to increase the ranks of black male teachers.

The story was based on more than a year of interviews with Weaver, including sessions in November of 2017 and February 2018, before and after the alleged hit and run occurred.

The podcast episodes were released in April 2018, and Weaver, who has two young children, was featured on an episode of WHYY’s Radio Times.

Weaver never spoke of the allegations and the charges against him were not made public until April 2019.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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