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A Florida student has pled no contest after beating a teacher’s aide unconscious in a viral video earlier this year.
In February, Brendan Depa, then 17, was reportedly arrested and charged with felony aggravated battery with bodily harm after video footage captured him relentlessly kicking and punching a Matanzas High School paraprofessional.
Depa is facing a possible maximum sentence of 30 years behind bars. However, the open plea could offer a shorter sentence down the line.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31.
Debate remains regarding what caused the assault
It was later discovered that the assault was over a video game dispute between he and the aide.
In a statement shared at the time, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said that Depa had stated “he was upset because the victim took his Nintendo Switch away from him during class.”
However, a message shared to a GoFundMe set up on the paraprofessional’s behalf disputed this aspect of the story, with the fundraiser organizer saying Naydich “never took or even mentioned the Nintendo Switch being taken away from the student.”
On Monday, per a report from the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Depa, is now 18.
He entered an open plea on the battery charge during a hearing in Bunnell.
Family and representation argue the former student isn’t fit for trial
Both Depa’s family and his lawyer previously argued he isn’t competent to stand trial, citing autism.
Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt has addressed the footage as well. She reiterated in February that it was critical to provide “a safe learning and working environment on our campuses.”
“I’m hopeful that the awareness of this incident being spread far and wide will prevent anyone else from ever dealing with the trauma, physical healing and disruption of everyday life this has caused,” said the victim’s GoFundMe page.
To date, more than $104,000 has been raised for the victim.
A mother defends her child
As reported by Flagler Live, his mother, Leanne Depa wrote:
“My son is in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, facing 30 years.
A child with multiple mental disorders like Brendan should not be sentenced to prison. He would be placed with the general population, exposing him to exploitation and abuse. Brendan lacks the capacity to adapt to prison culture and would not gain the necessary abilities to reintegrate into society successfully. Not least, we fear that access to proper medication and therapy would be unavailable.
Our nation must improve its care for children, as autism and juvenile mental health issues are on the rise. The statistics are staggering. Incarceration is not a viable solution for treatment or rehabilitation.
I am deeply saddened when I read comments that call him a monster, encourage authorities to lock him up forever, and make suggestions to send him to prison with a jar of Vaseline. He is human, he is a boy on the spectrum, with an emotional maturity of a 4 to 6-year-old, who also has mental health issues and has a family that loves him. He is a boy who with support, normalization of hormones and treatment using the right combinations of medicine has the potential to improve.”
Read more from his mother at Flagler Live.