Finding forgiveness: LSD trip sets up two strangers’ worlds to collide

Now former star athlete has bond with victim and entertainment career in Atlanta

Kevin Jackman had ignored his instincts and was drifting in and out of reality, high on LSD.

The star athlete at the Florida Institute of Technology was hardly a regular drug user but he was starting to feel a certain way about his girlfriend. For months, she and the college buddies with whom they shared a house in Melbourne, Florida, had been trying to get him to drop acid. The idea scared him.

It didn’t matter that Steve Jobs famously described taking the drug as “a profound experience,” or that it was the thing at Harvard during the 1960s, two decades before he was born.

Everything Kevin had learned about drugs while studying substance abuse in an elective course he’d taken at Tech spelled trouble.

That included LSD.

But as time passed, and he grew closer to his girlfriend, Kevin questioned whether his hesitation to try the mind-alerting drug was a sign of his lack of affection.

If he were really into her, why wouldn’t he?

After months of resistance, his girlfriend was applying the pressure again.

Fine, he finally said. Let’s just do it.

For the first two hours, Kevin seemed like himself.

But as Feb. 6, 2016, turned into Feb. 7, Super Bowl Sunday, he was starting to feel stir crazy, like he was having an out-of-body experience. He thought his friends were trying to get him killed.

As the minutes and hours ticked by, Kevin grew more frightened, more paranoid.

He telephoned his father in New York. He would know what to do.

Dad, I took LSD, he blurted out. I think I’m Jesus.

Kevin, you’re not Jesus, Steven Jackman told his son. Just stay in the house.

A father fears for his son

There is little doubt Jesus would’ve obeyed his father, but Kevin Jackman wasn’t Jesus. He was in a state of extreme paranoia.

No one can predict how LSD will affect someone. A bad “trip” can involve terrifying hallucinations. It can cause people to misjudge dangerous situations and do things they would not normally do.

That’s what worried Steven Jackman: Kevin was not himself.

His Kevin would never do drugs. He didn’t even drink alcohol. His Kevin was a former high school drum major, volunteer firefighter, an Eagle Scout, athlete and aspiring engineer like his older sister Corine. He was a good kid.

Kevin Jackman gives an acceptance speech during an Eagle Scout ceremony. (Courtesy of Kevin Jackman)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Kevin Jackman

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Kevin Jackman

But few in the middle-class, mostly white Melbourne neighborhood where Kevin lived would know that. All they would see was a tall Black man, someone who seemed dangerous.

That’s why he urged his son to stay in the house.

Steven Jackman had done his best to warn Kevin of the racism he might encounter as he went about his daily life. Studies show that black men over 6 feet tall are perceived as threatening. Kevin stood 6-foot-1.

And like other Black parents, Jackman had had “the talk” with his son, to prepare him for encounters with police that could turn deadly.

The previous year, more than 1,130 Black men had been fatally shot by police nationwide. In Florida, Black suspects were killed more often than anyone else, making up 45% of all police-involved deaths even though they represented just 17% of the state’s population. Four of those deaths occurred in Brevard County, where Kevin now lived.

What Steven Jackman told his son about being a Black man derived from his own experience two decades earlier, when thieves broke into Jackman’s 1987 Hyundai Excel and disabled the ignition.

Jackman was sitting in the driver’s seat in the parking lot of the Massapequa train station on Long Island the next day when two plainclothes cops put a gun to his head.

Get the (expletive) out of the car, they yelled at him.

This is my car, Jackman responded. I have the license and registration and I reported the break-in to the police.

Jackman did as he was told. Police slapped on handcuffs. They took his wallet from his pocket.

You guys are supposed to be helping me, Jackman told them.

We’re going to help you later, they laughed. If this is your car, where is the key?

It’s on the front seat.

Without uttering another word, they released him.

Jackman followed up with letters of complaints to the police commissioner, the local precinct chief and then-Mayor Ed Koch. As far as he knows, nothing was done, but he never forgot the experience.

He talked occasionally to his children about Black people’s traumatic relationship with America, but he was careful not to harp on it.

“I’d let them know that yeah, some cops are bad. But I didn’t want to instill fear in my children,” he said. “I didn’t want them to be haunted by what could happen.”

Now he worried if he’d done enough.

A new resident with big dreams

Less than half a mile away from Kevin Jackman’s house, Mandy Bass rose from the warmth of her bed, showered and headed to her weekly “Satsang” at the Open Mind Zen center near her home.

Although Zen meditation, also known as Zazen, is a technique rooted in Buddhist psychology, Mandy didn’t consider herself Buddhist or particularly religious. She still doesn’t.

Mandy Bass enjoys a stroll along the beach in Melbourne, Fla. (Courtesy of Mandy Bass)

Credit: Photo courtesy Mandy Bass

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Credit: Photo courtesy Mandy Bass

She does, however, consider herself a deeply spiritual person, who for more than 20 years has practiced daily meditation.

When she moved to Melbourne in 2015, she searched for a group of like-minded people and found them at Open Mind. She believed that meditating in groups deepened one’s practice.

A native of South Africa, Mandy had come to the United States to attend college. She was 17 and alone, driven by a desire to live “in a place where people lived freely.”

“I couldn’t wait to get out of there,” she said. “I wanted no part of a society that would foster discrimination of any kind.”

As a kid, she’d challenged the thinking of fellow whites and earned the nickname “Little Helen Suzman,” after the South African anti-apartheid activist and politician. But after nearly 40 years in America, Bass saw that her adopted home suffered from the same biases. She wanted to do her part — as a motivational speaker and life coach — to bring something positive to life.

She had called the Sunshine State home since 1996 and had developed quite a following. She hosted personal growth seminars and gave keynote talks across the country, sharing the stage with the likes of Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra.

She had a new coaching program to launch the following week, and there was still a ton of work to do to meet her deadline. After Sunday services and an hourlong workout, she returned home to get down to business.

She had declined Super Bowl party invitations because she had so much to do. She was rooting for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos but didn’t think they had much of a chance of beating the Carolina Panthers. Truth be told, she was only interested in seeing Lady Gaga perform the national anthem and Beyoncé and Bruno Mars in the halftime show.

The moment it was over, she planned to go to bed.

A star at track and music

By his sophomore year at Florida Tech, Kevin had already made a name for himself.

After years of running track and playing soccer in middle and high school, he easily walked onto the Panther track team, debuting in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, then setting a record in the 4 x 100-meter relay as the anchor.

His father had always told him he could do anything.

Kevin Jackman performs with the Amityville Memorial High School marching band. (Courtesy of Kevin Jackman)

Credit: Photo courtesy Kevin Jackman

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Credit: Photo courtesy Kevin Jackman

At New York’s Amityville Memorial High, he was prom king, lead trumpet player in the jazz band, voted best musician.

Steven Jackman still remembers the time Kevin pulled off his band uniform jacket at a game one night to expose a red Michael Jackson jacket underneath. He started dancing to the pop star’s “Thriller” as the cheerleaders pranced around him.

Kevin came by it honestly. He grew up in a house with a recording studio, stocked with clarinets, basses and drums. Corine played piano and Steven, multiple instruments.

“I liked to lighten the vibe,” Kevin said. “I wanted people to have fun.”

His family called him Mr. Motormouth because he loved to talk. His English teacher called him Keats because he loved to dissect poet John Keats’ sonnets.

For all of his son’s talents, Steven Jackman’s single hope was for Kevin to be a polite, nice person. It was what he wanted for both his children. He credits his wife of 32 years with that success.

Doreen was a stay-at-home mom who shuttled their children on school outings and made sure they attended church. She regularly texted Scripture to them to remind them who they were and whose they were.

She’d recently sent Kevin Psalms 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

‘I was in serious trouble’

As the day wore on that Super Bowl Sunday, Kevin called his father again and again. Nothing he said seemed to calm him.

Just stay in the house, the father kept telling his son.

Kevin wasn’t in control though. The LSD was.

Voices urged him to kill himself. He thought his friends were trying to trap him. He plotted his escape. Barefoot, he made a mad dash for the door. One of his roommates called 911.

Kevin weaved and bobbed through the neighborhood, jumping over fences, ducking between houses like a heavyweight champion in the ring. Over his shoulder, he could see a policeman in hot pursuit. He was terrified he’d be shot in the street. He didn’t want to die that way.

He’d gone 0.4 miles when he stopped at a house midway down Fan Palm Avenue.

Mandy Bass was still at her computer when she heard the sound of glass breaking on the other side of the house. She figured her cats, Mako and Sophia, had knocked something over or the bathroom mirror had fallen from the wall. She finished one last email then headed toward the sound from her bedroom.

A man emerged out of the shadows.

Mandy, trying to look in control, pointed at the door.

Get out of my house, she shouted.

Get out of my house, he shouted back.

“The next thing I know, he started beating the heck out of me,” Mandy said.

She fell, hitting her head hard against the floor.

“I saw stars,” she said. “I started to fight for my life.”

The blows were hard. Mandy blacked out. When she awoke, the man was kicking her in the ribs.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, he demanded.

For a brief moment, the man seemed to emerge from a trance.

I’m so sorry, he said.

He leaned in to help her up. Just as she steadied herself, he hit her again, knocking her back to the floor. Mandy pretended to be dead.

“I knew then I was in serious trouble,” she said. “He was not in control of himself.”

She willed herself off the floor and started running.

As she fumbled to open the front door, the man grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back inside. He picked up a steel chair and threw it at her. Mandy raised her right arm to block the force. She felt her arm break. She made another run for the door.


Her eyes focused on the house across the street. Halfway there, she felt arms around her waist. A police officer was pulling her to the side.

Horrible realizations

Melbourne police cruisers lined the entire length of the street. Neighbors congregated on manicured lawns.

Officers called for the man to exit the house.

In the quiet, Kevin could feel his spirit start to calm. Where was he? What had he done?

He heard the cops call his name again. He knew he was going to die.

He found a sticky note and pen in Mandy’s office and sat down in front of her computer. Do not do LSD, he wrote, then stuck it to the computer screen.

He remembered the last note from his mother, Doreen, and the Scripture. “Be still and know that I am God.”

Kevin "Keats" Jackman found forgiveness after a terrifying night in February 2016. Now working on an entertainment career, he is shown at Cam Kirk Studios in Atlanta on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Hyosub Shin /


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Kevin walked into an adjoining room and knelt down on his knees for what he believed would be his last conversation with God.

God, I know I’ve taken this to a point where I can no longer do anything myself to make things right, he prayed. I don’t want to cause any more pain. I leave it up to you to take me out or leave me here. I will be still.

He laid prostrate on the floor and put his hands behind his head. The door burst open. A police dog pounced, tearing into the skin on his right shoulder.

Police followed close behind. They handcuffed him and walked him out the door to an ambulance.

He was still hallucinating when he arrived at Holmes Regional Medical Center, where doctors were already at work patching Mandy Bass’ wounds. She had sustained a concussion, head injuries, a broken right arm and severe bruises to her entire body.

Kevin awoke the next day in the Brevard County jail to find himself in yet another fight, one between his ego and his conscience. He knew he was a good person. How could he have done such a horrible thing?

Melbourne police charged him with criminal mischief, battery, resisting an officer, aggravated battery, armed burglary, possession of a weapon for using a steel chair in Mandy’s home and false imprisonment. Four of those charges were felonies.

Sometime around 1 a.m., a police officer drove Mandy home from the hospital. Two days later, she learned Kevin Jackman had been released on $56,000 bond.

Mandy was terrified.

Her attacker knew exactly where she lived.

Would he return to finish what he’d started?

A mistake or a monster?

Mandy’s closest friend lived nearly 180 miles away in Miami.

Lourdes O’Byrne was a single mom with a kid in school. She couldn’t just pick up and drive to Melbourne. And Mandy was in no shape to drive.

She had known O’Byrne since 2005, when Bass was a regular motivational speaker. O’Byrne was initially her student. Now, in the wee hours of Feb. 8, she would become her lifeline.

As they spoke on the phone, O’Byrne went to work to learn everything she could about her friend’s attacker. She discovered he was a star athlete at Florida Tech and a straight A student.

He had no history of violence, not a single arrest.

O’Byrne, a therapist who had spent years working in a psychiatric hospital, knew people on drugs sometimes had breaks. She remembered when LSD was an experimental playground in the ’70s, and people did stupid things while high, including throwing themselves off buildings.

It was all impulse but O’Byrne insisted that while Kevin had done a terrible thing, the evidence, particularly the note he left on the computer, showed something had gone terribly wrong, that Kevin was just a normal kid who made a mistake.

Mandy didn’t believe her.

You didn’t see the monster, she screamed through the phone.

Nothing O’Byrne said could alleviate her friend’s trauma, but she felt certain Mandy was safe now. Kevin Jackman was not coming back.

She encouraged her friend to get trauma therapy, to begin the long process of emotional healing.

Then O’Byrne went one step further.

You have to forgive him, she told her friend.

The very thought infuriated Mandy.

But there was no denying she was in bad shape, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Seeing her attacker as a person

For weeks, Mandy struggled to come to terms with what had happened to her. Was she somehow responsible?

Her entire body seemed to hurt. She worried her business might not survive. She couldn’t add single digits, follow a movie plot or watch a television show without getting lost in a fog.

She needed to see a neurologist.

When he heard her attacker was out on bail, he immediately assumed he was an immigrant.

Those illegals, they are the only ones who get away with this sort of thing, he told her.

The doctor’s prejudice felt familiar to Mandy — and dangerous. At 14, a black man broke into her family’s home in South Africa while she slept. When she felt his hand on her leg, she screamed. The man ran away.

Her parents called the police, who set off looking for him. A couple of hours later, they returned with a young black man and pushed him down on the floor in front of her.

Is this the kaffir? they demanded to know.

Mandy couldn’t say for certain. It was dark and she hadn’t gotten a good enough look.

Instead of letting the man go, police took him outside and brutally beat him. Mandy saw him in the back of the patrol car, blood streaming from his face.

She felt heartbroken, and responsible for what had happened.

She didn’t think the white officers cared whether they had the right man. In all likelihood, his only crime was to be born with dark skin.

Now, in the doctor’s office, Mandy felt strangely protective of her attacker. She didn’t reveal his name or his race. But she set the doctor straight:

No, she told him. He was not an immigrant. He is as American as you are.

It was OK to judge him for what he had done but not his humanity.

Ceremony helps with healing

When Mandy finally heeded her friend’s advice to seek therapy, she could feel her anxiety begin to dissipate.

The big shift would come two months later, during a “house clearing” ceremony, an ancient ritual to release negative energy from a living space.

Mandy Bass gives a TEDx Talk on finding courage. (Courtesy of Mandy Bass)

Credit: Photo courtesy Mandy Bass

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Credit: Photo courtesy Mandy Bass

The Rev. Elizabeth Stamper was a licensed psychotherapist and interfaith minister whom Mandy met at the Zen center. She arrived at Mandy’s home on a glorious Sunday afternoon with several other interfaith ministers and friends Mandy had invited, including Lourdes O’Byrne, who drove up from Miami.

As soft music wafted through the house, the women filled each room with incense, lighted candles, white lilies and roses.

They moved from room to room, stopping first in the master bath, where Kevin had entered Mandy’s home, to pray for peace and healing. While one of them remained there to meditate, the rest of the group moved on, repeating the ritual until each room was “cleared” and blessed.

Finally, Mandy sat in a circle surrounded by her friends on the floor of her living room, the place of the attack.

Together we invite the power and the presence of God, Stamper prayed. We ask this loving power to guide and direct this healing and this clearing ... so that whatever Mandy needs for her highest good is what happens here. We trust that it is so.

Mandy saw Kevin’s face surrounded by a golden light. She burst into tears.

Too soon to forgive?

From that moment on, Mandy started to reclaim her life and after a few more weeks returned to work, then her Zen and yoga classes.

She checked in with assistant state’s attorney Laura Moody for updates on her case. She stalked Kevin’s Facebook page and the Florida Tech website to see what he was up to.

Kevin was touring with the track team, racking up win after win. On May 6, he graduated with degrees in business administration and marketing. It was as if his life had returned to normal while she was still struggling.

In June of that year, Mandy received a report from Kevin’s lawyer, Larry Handfield, requesting probation and delayed adjudication for up to five years.

Mandy was outraged.

She would never agree to the request.

Handfield said Kevin had no memory of the attack.

How dare he destroy my life and say he doesn’t remember anything, Mandy thought.

Handfield argued, among other things, that up until the attack, Kevin had been a model citizen, a volunteer firefighter since age 17 and an Eagle Scout. He argued that his behavior was the result of peer pressure and his reaction to LSD.

What the attorney was asking for amounted to a reduced sentence with no jail time. If Kevin met the court requirement, after a five-year probation, his record would be wiped clean.

Mandy, realizing her forgiveness had been conditional, wanted him to pay.

In a letter to the state’s attorney, she expressed her outrage. Mitigation was out of the question. She wanted to confront her attacker, to give him a blow-by-blow of the damage he’d done to her.

The meeting would take place on Nov. 11.

Mandy Bass embraces Kevin Jackman during their first meeting Nov. 11, 2016. (Courtesy of Mandy Bass)

Credit: Photo courtesy Mandy Bass

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Credit: Photo courtesy Mandy Bass

The state’s attorney was unwilling to compromise on the charges unless Mandy agreed. Kevin faced life plus 22 years and 60 days in prison.

Mandy gathered the photos she’d taken days after the attack and put them in a digital folder on her iPad. As she drove along the Indian River to meet Kevin and his attorney, she prayed out loud.

Show me what I need to see, guide me in my actions, thoughts and words. Please clear my mind of judgment and preconception. Show me what is right and true.

Kevin had just graduated from college, and could spend the first 10, 15 years of his adult life in prison with hardened criminals.

How would that serve her? How would it serve society?

At the same time, what if she supported his probation and he hurt someone else? That would be on her.

Midway there, an assistant called. Kevin, his father and attorney had arrived. Mandy asked that they wait in another room until she could get settled in the conference room. Walking into a room of opponents, she thought, would put her at a disadvantage.

There, Mandy Bass took a deep breath, and the men, each bearing gifts, each dressed in their Sunday best, were allowed inside.

Kevin entered first carrying a box of French pastries. His father held a vase of red roses and his attorney, a vase of yellow roses.

They shook hands. Steven Jackman settled opposite Mandy at the conference table. Kevin stood at the head.

Mandy felt lightheaded. She leaned on the table to steady herself. Calm suddenly washed over her. She felt as if she’d stepped into a time warp.

She could feel their eyes on her. To cut the tension, she blurted out, You don’t look nearly as scary as you did the last time I saw you.

Kevin’s entire body shook.

I’m sorry, he said, sobbing.

Mandy put her arms around him, consoling him as a mother would her son.

She could see a kid who had made a mistake.

“I forgive you,” she whispered. “God forgives you. It’s going to be OK. I promise.”

Moving forward as friends

Kevin soon gathered himself and they sat down to talk. Mandy gave him a play-by-play of what happened that February day. She showed him pictures of her injuries, her broken arm and black-and-blue face.

Then they talked about what she could do to help him.

Mandy made no commitments.

“I need to think about things,” she told them.

At the end of the meeting, Kevin accompanied Mandy to her car, helping carry the vases of flowers that they had brought her.

With each passing day, Mandy became certain of her mission: to drop the charges and clear Kevin’s name.

According to a court transcript, Moody, the assistant state’s attorney who prosecuted the case, was not in agreement but it was how Mandy wanted the case resolved.

“This is definitely with her blessing,” she told the court.

In January 2017, Kevin Jackman was sentenced to five years’ probation with no conviction on his record.

Mandy gave him permission to contact her. They stayed in touch. Sometimes by phone. Other times via text message.

When a manager at a company in Atlanta called months later to ask if she would hire Kevin, Mandy gladly vouched for him.

Kevin was grateful. The job fit his style perfectly. He wouldn’t be confined to a desk making cold calls. From 9 to 5, he could get out and meet people, explore the city. Talk. Talk. Talk.

After work, he pursued his entertainment interests, performing multiple times a week as a beatbox MC at various venues in Atlanta.

As for Mandy, she was feverishly writing her account of the past years, how the experience helped her heal “a lot of my relationships,” confront her fears and ultimately love herself.

In December 2017, she self-published “Taming the Tokolosh: Through Fear Into Healing. A Trauma Survivor’s True Story,” available on Amazon. It includes a resource guide with helpful exercises that Mandy used to get her through rough times.

Mandy Bass recounts the attack and her journey to forgiveness in "Taming the Tokolosh." (Courtesy of Mandy Bass)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Mandy Bass

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Mandy Bass

Despite a more than 20-year age gap, Kevin and Mandy became friends, who enjoyed sharing their views of happenings around the world and in their lives.

Listening to him, it was hard to believe he was the same kid who had attacked her in a drug-induced rage.

“He really is a great young man, so talented, and incredibly sweet,” Mandy said. “I want him to be successful and happy and so far he’s doing it.”

Last year, Kevin started making videos on TikTok. He has amassed over a million followers, including Hollywood executive Michael Ireland.

“I dug a little deeper and saw some of his music videos and he’s got bars,” Ireland said. “I dug a little deeper and saw his sketch comedy and he’s hysterical and so I reached out to him.”

Kevin "Keats" Jackman works in his home studio in Doraville on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020.  (Hyosub Shin /


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He likened Kevin to Daveed Diggs from the musical “Hamilton.” Kevin, who has adopted the stage name Keats, likes to think of himself as more like Donald Glover.

“I think you’re great,” Ireland remembered telling Kevin when they connected by phone. “If you ever want to have a conversation about what you’re doing and where you want to go, I’m open to it.”

That was it. Ireland left the ball in Kevin’s court.

Feeling God’s presence

Kevin had wasted little time introducing himself to Atlanta’s music scene.

On May 31, 2017, his first night here, he got a standing ovation performing at a showcase sponsored by Patchwerk Studios, the same Midtown venture that has welcomed the likes of Outkast, T.I. and Ludacris.

Photographer Spliff Dalcoe (right) shares preview images with Kevin "Keats" Jackman and his manager Charles Smith (center) at Cam Kirk Studios in Atlanta on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Hyosub Shin /


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The manager that night invited him to the recording studio for a personal tour. Kevin followed up by enrolling in workshops and building relationships. When he learned the studio was looking for someone to write a song for an upcoming Super Bowl pregame show, Kevin was among those who submitted demo tapes.

“I Want the Touchdown” was recorded last year with NFL great Michael Irvin and Steve Mariucci.

Early in October, Kevin resigned from the IT company where he worked to give his full attention to entertaining. He’s looking forward but Feb. 7, 2016, is never out of view.

“I’m the Black man who assaulted a white woman in Florida and lived to tell the story,” he said.

Had God not intervened that day, he’s sure it would have turned out differently. He has been aware of God’s presence ever since.

“It’s like lint on your shirt,” he said.

Kevin "Keats" Jackman is shown at Cam Kirk Studios in Atlanta on  Nov. 5, 2020. (Hyosub Shin /


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He points to his TikTok success and the contacts he made at Patchwerk Studios as proof of God’s hand in his life.

“I’m arrested on one Super Bowl Sunday, I move to Atlanta and the first person I meet at Patchwerk gives me the opportunity to perform on the Super Bowl show,” he said. “Who could do that but God?”

Kevin Jackman appeared in 2018 on the Megyn Kelly show with Mandy Bass, the woman he attacked while he was on LSD. (Courtesy of Mandy Bass)

Credit: Photo courtesy Mandy Bass

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Credit: Photo courtesy Mandy Bass

He tries not to dwell on his mistakes. He wants to use his time to make a difference in the lives of others. As part of his plea deal, he shares his experience as often as he can to warn youth against using drugs. He has appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show with Mandy and accepted invitations from local youth groups at the Faith Center in Tucker and the nonprofit Blacks United for Youth Inc., also known as BUY-Cobb.

His message? Resist peer pressure. Trust yourself. Always be mindful that one mistake can lead you down a path where there is no U-turn.

Mandy hopes their story will serve as a reminder that everyone is a child of God, struggling to survive and in need of compassion.

Some will always believe Kevin should pay for what he did, she said. Forgiving him, however, is more a motivation for Kevin to live a good life than prison could ever be.

“He gets to pay it forward and live up to the trust we’ve put in him,” Mandy said. “That’s also a consequence.”