Teens plead not guilty in beatings
The three are charged in the January beatings of three homeless men, one of whom died.
Published February 23, 2006
FORT LAUDERDALE - Three teenagers described by their lawyers as contrite and distraught pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three brutal beatings in one night last month that left one homeless man dead and two seriously injured.
Brian Hooks and William Ammons, both 18, and Thomas Daugherty, 17, were indicted Feb. 2 on murder charges in the killing of Norris Gaynor, 45, and attempted murder in the beatings of Jacques Pierre, 58, and Raymond Perez, 49.
Early on Jan. 12, Pierre was bludgeoned with a baseball bat on the Fort Lauderdale campus of Florida Atlantic University. Later, Gaynor, sleeping on a park bench, was attacked with a bat and shot with a paintball gun. That was followed by the assault on Perez with a golf club in a church garden.
The attack on Pierre was recorded by a security camera and the videotape was broadcast widely, helping lead authorities to the suspects.
The three suspects appeared briefly in court together Wednesday. All remain jailed without bail.
After their appearances, the teens' attorneys described the youths as remorseful.
"He's got the weight of the world on his shoulders," said Daugherty's attorney, Michael Gottlieb. "He definitely feels bad."
Hooks' lawyer, Jeremy Kroll, said his client was "obviously disturbed by what happened."
Ammons' attorney, Michael Rothschild, an assistant public defender, said a key to his client's defense may be a witness who can testify that "he wasn't with them when Mr. Gaynor was unfortunately killed." Police reports, however, allege that Ammons fired paintballs at Gaynor while Daugherty struck him on the head with a baseball bat.
Under Florida law, a person who takes part in a crime can be charged with murder if someone is slain, even if he didn't commit the actual killing.
A fourth teenager who was with the group that night - a 16-year-old who has not been identified - has been assisting investigators and has not been charged.
Hooks and Ammons could face the death penalty if convicted. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek that penalty. Daugherty, though being tried as an adult, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison because of his age.
Police also are looking into reports from five homeless people who came forward after the attacks to describe similar attacks by young white males. If those assaults are linked to the three teenagers, further charges could result.
Gottlieb said the defense lawyers likely would seek to have the trial moved out of Broward County because of intense publicity. "It seems that national media coverage is going to be extensive from start to finish," he said.
[Last modified February 23, 2006, 01:08:11]
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