Fresno teen accused of robbing, beating 92-year-old WWII vet to be tried as adult
The Fresno Bee
Found unfit to be tried as a juvenile, a 16-year-old Fresno boy made his first appearance Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court in connection with the home-invasion robbery of 92-year-old World War II veteran Josef Martin.
Keith Scott, wearing handcuffs and leg irons, appeared nervous in the courtroom filled with rough-looking, tattooed adult offenders in red jail jumpsuits.
Because of the seriousness of the crime, Scott is being charged as an adult.
After pleading not guilty to elder abuse, home invasion and attempted burglary charges, Scott was returned to the county's Juvenile Justice Campus where he is being held in lieu of $405,000 bail.
Outside court, Scott's attorney, Robert Lamanuzzi, said his client is remorseful. He also said Scott is a special education student who fell in with the wrong crowd.
"He's a follower, not a leader," Lamanuzzi said.
But Martin said Wednesday that Scott should be punished severely.
In November, Sheriff Margaret Mims announced the arrest of three teens, including a 12-year-old boy, and accused them of breaking into Martin's home during the early hours of Oct. 23.
Mims said one of the suspects thrust a gun in Martin's mouth and threatened to kill him. Martin also was pistol-whipped and then thrown into a closet, his head punching a foot-wide hole in the wall, as the assailants ransacked his home, stealing $200 from under a rug and jewelry before getting away.
Mims also said deputies were investigating other home invasions in the vicinity of Martin's home near Olive and Willow avenues.
But so far, only Scott and the 12-year-old have been charged in connection with the attack on Martin.
Wednesday, Lamanuzzi said neither Scott nor the 12-year-old was charged with personally using or holding a gun. That suspect has never been charged, he said.
Sheriff's officials confirmed Wednesday an investigation of the third suspect is ongoing.
In December, Judge James Kelley sentenced the 12-year-old to the Juvenile Justice Campus for a year as part of a rehabilitation program for pre-adolescents. The Bee does not identify minors who are tried as juveniles.
Scott could be facing a much stiffer penalty, if convicted, because he's being tried as an adult after Judge Gregory Fain found the crime against Martin to be serious with a high degree of sophistication.
The suspects knocked on people's doors late at night, Lamanuzzi said.
Lamanuzzi said Scott is a soft-spoken kid with no prior criminal record. He has learning disabilities, once lived in a group home, and was seeing a clinical psychologist, Lamanuzzi said.
Scott was led to believe they were going to burglarize a home with no one inside, Lamanuzzi said. The suspects thought Martin wasn't home because they knocked on his front door and rang the doorbell several times and no one answered.
Scott was arrested Nov. 1 while trying to break into another home, court records show.
"He's sorry about what happened," Lamanuzzi said. "This is a difficult case because everyone who knows (Scott) says he is a gentle teenager."
Martin, who served in the Army for nine years as a corporal and tank driver, and was decorated for fighting in several battles, including the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, said the attack still affects him.
"I have to take tranquilizers to kill the pain," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "My head still hurts from it being smashed into the wall."
Martin said he can't shake what happened to him. "It was brutal. I can still hear the click of the gun and them saying, 'I'm going to kill you.' "
And Martin recalled that when he begged for his life, the boys laughed as they hit him. "They used me as a punching bag."
"I know they're kids, but I hope to heck someone stops them or they might do it to someone else," Martin said.