A Baltimore County Circuit judge transferred the case of a defendant charged in the attack of a Hereford science teacher to juvenile court yesterday - a move that prosecutors say could mean lenient treatment for all four defendants in the case.
Franklin J. Medina, 16, of Cockeysville was charged as an adult in the assault of Jason Barnett, who was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center after he was attacked June 18 near his Cockeysville apartment.
Judge J. Norris Byrnes transferred Medina's case after a brief hearing yesterday, ruling that he is amenable to treatment in the juvenile system.
Assistant State's Attorney James O. Gentry argued that Medina was "the most culpable" of four defendants charged with attempted murder in the attack.
Barnett, who has returned to teaching agricultural science this year at Hereford Middle School, declined to comment yesterday.
But Gentry said that the three other defendants may use Byrne's ruling to argue for more lenient treatment.
Transfer of Medina's case means he can be held by juvenile authorities only until he turns 21, Gentry said.
"You judge each case on an individual basis, but the other defendants may look at this case and use it to say they're entitled to the same kind of treatment," Gentry said.
Roy G. Higgs, 17, of Owings Mills pleaded guilty to first-degree assault Wednesday and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 5.
Daniel John Leksen, 18, of Cockeysville is scheduled to be tried Oct. 5, and Jimmy W. Zentz, 20, of no fixed address, is scheduled for trial Dec. 5.
Barnett had left a friend's apartment and was walking with two friends when he passed by four males, police said. One asked if Barnett and his friends had any cigarettes and when Barnett said no, the four began to follow them.
The group attacked Barnett and Jeffrey David Gilbert. But Gilbert and the female friend who was with them were able to get away, police said.
Gentry said that Medina initiated the attack, struck the most blows and continued to pummel Barnett's bloodied face and head after he had passed out.
"They stomped on him. They almost killed him," Gentry said.
But Byrnes noted that Medina had only one prior conviction for shoplifting, no previous history of violent behavior and supportive parents. He said that Medina's chances for rehabilitation are better in the juvenile system than in a state prison.
"I waive him to adult court, and he's a dead duck," Byrnes told Gentry.
The ruling occurred after two teachers testified on Medina's behalf and a psychiatrist and Juvenile Services investigator recommended that Byrnes transfer the case to juvenile court.