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Teen pleads guilty to second-degree assault

September 22, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

The 15-year-old charged with stabbing a younger boy in a fight on a playground at Noland Village last November may have believed he would meet the same fate as his late father.

"His father was killed in a similar situation where he was surrounded - that may have had an impact," said the teenager's attorney, Michael Morrissette.

That incident that claimed his father's life occurred years ago in Prince George's County, where the family used to live, Morrissette said.

The teenager pleaded guilty Wednesday in Washington County Juvenile Court to second-degree assault and carrying a weapon with intent to injure and was returned home to await sentencing.

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When initially treated as an adult, the youth, who was 14 when the incident happened, also faced charges of attempted first- and second-degree murder, first-degree assault and reckless endangerment.

He was waived to the juvenile court system in March and has been in the community on pre-trial supervision.

Jose Benitez, 13, suffered a collapsed lung in the Nov. 27 attack, police said. He was a patient at Washington County Hospital until Dec. 1, according to hospital records.

Witnesses told police an argument near a basketball court in Court 8 of Noland Village escalated into a fistfight and the teenager went to his house and returned with a knife, according to Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Susan Lochbaum.

Minutes later, Benitez was stabbed in the back.

Morrissette said there were two fights that day - one in which the then-14-year-old was jumped and the second in which his client was "caught" again.

"The victim and his family have been uncooperative," Lochbaum told Judge John H. McDowell Wednesday.

The 15-year-old had a misdemeanor theft charge in Montgomery County, Md., but he's had no trouble with the law since moving to Hagerstown except for the stabbing.

"I'm sorry for what I did," he told McDowell. "I like school."

A representative from the Washington County Board of Education said reports from his school indicated the youth had good grades and no trouble with discipline.

McDowell requested a psychiatric evaluation as part of a pre-disposition report. "I have a lot of questions here," he said.

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