A ninth-grader pleaded no contest Wednesday to attempted first-degree murder for repeatedly stabbing another Deerfield Beach High School student with an eight-inch screwdriver in a classroom confrontation.
Hector Medina, 15, had been charged as an adult, but as part of the plea deal he will spend no more than three years in a maximum-security juvenile detention center. He could have faced up to life in an adult prison if he was convicted of the Oct. 19 attack that left his classmate with a punctured lung and head and neck wounds.
Michael Kaplan that he understood the agreement. A half-dozen of Medina's family members watched from the courtroom's back row as the teenager answered the judge's questions.
The stabbing victim, also 15, now lives in Georgia and neither he nor his father attended Wednesday's hearing. Prosecutor Maria Schneider said he and his family signed off on the plea agreement.
"Both the victim and his father are in accord with this disposition, which I thought was very kind of them," Schneider said. "I'm not sure if my child was hurt to this degree that I would be so forgiving. They wanted to make sure he understood the consequences of his actions and got help."
Medina stabbed the classmate with the Phillips screwdriver four times after confronting him moments before their Critical Thinking class was set to begin. The teacher rushed over and stopped the attack, authorities said. The student was airlifted to Broward General Medical Center.
Schneider said that before the attack, Medina had "significant mental health problems" and the teenager had asked his family to get him professional help. She did not go into details about Medina's psychological problems.
After Medina finishes his stint in juvenile detention, he could be monitored by the state Department of Juvenile Justice until his 21st birthday. If he gets in trouble during that time, he could be back in court facing the attempted first-degree murder charge as an adult.
Benny De Jesus, Medina's uncle, said his nephew "blew his top" because the victim had been bullying him. The other student had intentionally stepped on Medina's broken foot and Medina thought the classmate had stolen from him, the uncle said.
Robert Trachman, Medina's attorney, said that if the case had gone to trial, instances of the stabbing victim bullying Medina would have been heard.
"This wasn't just an encounter where one day he decided to pick a fight with somebody," Trachman said. "He had a number of episodes where he perceived he was being picked on by the victim in this case, physically and emotionally. ... The problem is that if you are picking on somebody who has psychological and emotional issues, you have to be prepared at some point they may snap or act out with a disproportionate response and that's happened."
Schneider declined to speculate about what led to the stabbing, saying that the two boys were neither friends nor enemies.