Wake prosecutors offer 'STAYUMBL' driver plea deal
Posted June 5, 2019 10:28 a.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2019 6:09 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County prosecutors on Wednesday offered a plea deal to a Durham woman who has gained notoriety online for erratic driving and the license plate "STAYUMBL."
Diana Taije Mems, 50, faces speeding and reckless driving charges in Wake County, as well as a charge of failure to appear in court on the driving charges last month.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman sought an indictment against Mems after learning of her history of accidents and driving offenses, saying Mems posed a risk to the public. As a result, the case was moved from traffic court to Superior Court.
"It is accurate to say that we are drawing the line in the sand, that we are taking this seriously. We believe that Miss Mems creates a hazard on the road," Freeman said.
Defense attorney Brennon Morton questioned that stance on Wednesday, and Judge Vincent Rozier also wondered why Mems' case was being treated differently than other cases.
"Our main thing is we want her to be treated like any other defendant who comes in the courtroom, Morton said. "We don't want the fact that she is in Superior Court and the social media concern and frenzy that's been going on behind the scenes, we don't want that to impact the way the case actually plays out in the courtroom."
Mems has become infamous on social media, where dozens of posts point out the "STAYUMBL" plate and criticize her driving. Some people accuse her of trying to force other drivers to rear-end her vehicle by stopping abruptly in traffic.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Shaun Taylor told Rozier that Mems has a long list of previous charges and accidents, as well as 18 aliases and a fake address on her driver's license.
Prosecutors said that, if Mems pleads guilty to all three charges against her, they would recommend a sentence of two years on probation, provided she gives up her driver's license and undergoes a mental health assessment. They also agreed to leave the sentence up to the judge's discretion if she pleads guilty.
"What we would hope to see is that she goes a period of time without driving, frankly," Freeman said after the court hearing.
Morton said Mems needs her license because she drives large trucks and heavy machinery for a living.
She was required to surrender it when she turned herself in on the failure to appear charge on May 23, and Morton asked Rozier if she could have her license back. He denied the request.
Mems also have been on electronic monitoring since she posted bond and was released from jail. The judge said she should remain on that, although she no longer has to pay for it.
Morton and Mems left the courtroom without entering a plea. She is due back in court June 26, if she doesn't enter a plea before then.
"Because the case has gotten a great following on social media and otherwise, I do believe it's played at least a part in some of the judges' discretion to use certain tactics, specifically her surrendering her driver's license and GPS monitoring," Morton said.
"This is not a typical traffic case in that Miss Mems has operated under multiple aliases, multiple driver's license numbers. She's had up to 30 moving violations and traffic violations and over 30 accidents," Freeman said. "We feel an obligation to pay special attention to that and to take extra steps to make sure that the driving public is safe."
Freeman has asked the state Division of Motor Vehicles to merge the records of Mems' 18 aliases to make sure they have her accurate driving record.
Mems also is due in Durham County court on June 25 on charges of reckless driving, improper passing and impeding traffic.
Those charges stem from an April incident involving a school bus. A bus driver posted a video online that showed the "STAYUMBL" car pulling in front of the bus and stopping suddenly on a two-lane road to block the bus. A woman got out of the car with a cellphone to record the incident as she pointed at the back of her car.
WRAL News learned that Mems changed her license plate after being cited in the Durham school bus case.
The Wake County District Attorney's Office and the state Department of Insurance are reviewing Mems' history to determine if any of the dozens of crashes she's been involved in since 2000 have been staged to collect an insurance payout.