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Teen Murder Suspects Face Added Charges

Crime: Prosecutors allege that trio of young athletes arrested in beating death of man at party were involved in a second fight that same evening.

June 09, 2000|GREG RISLING and EDGAR SANDOVAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LITTLEROCK — Three high school athletes suspected in the beating death of an 18-year-old man face an additional assault charge stemming from a second fight that night, prosecutors said Thursday.

Richard Newton, Marcus Raines and Rodney Woods, all 17 and from Palmdale, challenged the charges of murder and assault on Thursday in Juvenile Court in Sylmar, said Victoria Pipkin of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Prosecutors want to try the three teens as adults. A judge may make a decision on that issue Tuesday, when the athletic standouts are scheduled to return to court.

In the amended complaint, prosecutors claim the three teens were involved in another fight following the alleged attack on Christopher O'Leary at a party.

The second fight involved a 22-year-old friend of O'Leary who was also at the party, Pipkin said.

Pipkin said the man may have attempted to intervene on behalf of O'Leary, but she had no further details. Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators did not return calls for comment on the case.

"Maybe sheriff's investigators plan to bring additional information later regarding this incident," Pipkin said.

O'Leary was picking up his girlfriend from a party May 19 when he was punched in the face by Newton, the starting quarterback at Littlerock High, authorities said. When O'Leary fell to the ground, he was allegedly kicked in the head by Raines. Raines went on to win two medals at a state track meet the following day. Prosecutors haven't disclosed Woods' alleged role in the death, noting they believe he participated in the beating. Authorities believe the attack was unprovoked.

O'Leary, an avid skateboarder, went home woozy from the beating. Several hours later he was found unconscious in his bed and airlifted to a hospital where he died from his injuries.

Woods' attorney, James Blatt, said prosecutors contacted him Thursday to tell him his client would be charged with assault with intent to commit bodily injuries.

"They alleged he was part of a group of kids who attacked another at the same time of the other incident," Blatt said. "But we know Woods was not part of the attack."

Blatt said he had spent several weeks interviewing witnesses who saw the fight and about 10 of them had told him his client was not part of the group involved in either of the two attacks, he said. Blatt added that his client, who has a football scholarship to Fresno State, has been wrongly accused.

"I can't wait to present this evidence next time we appear in court," he said. "My client has worked hard to be able to go to college next year and we want to get this over with as soon as possible so he can live a normal life."

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Risling is a Times Community News reporter and Sandoval is a Times staff writer.

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