The teenage defendant in a fatal attack at a fair in Frederick County, Maryland, pleaded guilty to manslaughter Wednesday.
The 15-year-old boy was tried in the juvenile system and has been in detention since the September attack. He remains detained pending a deposition hearing scheduled for May 15.
The family of victim John Weed, of Mount Airy, participated in Wednesday’s hearing through video conference. Weed’s family wants to see the defendant in an “appropriate juvenile residential program,” a Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office news release said.
The state previously requested that the boy and his brother, who was also involved in the attack, be tried as adults, but the court ruled otherwise in February.
“Holding him responsible for the manslaughter was the very first thing we wanted to accomplish for the family and community, regardless of whether he was tried as an adult or juvenile,” State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said in a statement.
The family and the prosecutors are pleased with the plea, and the effort will now turn to the upcoming deposition.
“Since the judge made the decision to keep him in the juvenile system, that means the judge and juvenile services will focus on his rehabilitation, not punishment like the adult system. That’s a reality that we have to deal with, and one the family understands as well,” Smith said.
The attack happened Sept. 20, 2019 at the Great Frederick Fair. The defendant and several others approached Weed, 59, and asked him for money.
When Weed refused, the defendant continued to follow Weed, despite being asked to stop.
The defendant struck Weed twice, as Weed walked away. Then, the defendant’s 16-year-old brother struck Weed twice, as well.
As Weed was facing the brother, the defendant “came running from a distance and punched Mr. Weed with such force” that he lost consciousness almost immediately, prosecutors said. He died the following day at the hospital.
The 16-year-old brother was charged with two counts of second-degree assault for allegedly punching and spitting on Weed. He, too, will be tried as a juvenile.
Following the attack, Del. Dan Cox proposed a change in the state’s hate crime law to include spitting on someone.
Prosecutors said witnesses did not indicate the attack was related to race, and they never accused Weed of using any racial slur when interviewed by Frederick County Sheriff’s detectives.
The defendants’ parents have said their sons had made a serious mistake but didn’t deserve jail time.
After authorities identified Weed as the victim days after the attack, Smith said it did not appear Weed’s death was premeditated homicide, “but a person’s dead and so our job is to hold them accountable.”