A teenager charged with the murder of a 17-year-old Patterson boy admitted to a lesser charge last week after evidence showed he wasn’t the one who inflicted the fatal injuries.
The victim, Jose Mendoza, was stabbed during a fight in the area of Shearwater Drive and James Burke Avenue near Tilton Park in Patterson on Oct. 8. He died from his injuries at Main Avenue and Carpenter Road, where first responders met his mother as she was attempting to drive him to a hospital.
A month later, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office arrested 20-year-old Usaamahshehu Ibnjamil Mujahid and a 17-year-old boy in connection with Mendoza’s death.
Both were charged with second-degree murder and Deputy District Attorney John Appleby filed transfer papers to seek prosecuting the minor as an adult.
But the boy’s case resolved Thursday in Juvenile Court, where he admitted to a charge of assault likely to produce great bodily injury after Appleby dropped the murder charge and withdrew the motion to transfer.
Appleby said that during a preliminary hearing in adult court last month, evidence was presented that co-defendant Mujahid, not the minor, stabbed Mendoza.
He said the minor did inflict injuries on Mendoza, but it was only the stab wounds that were fatal.
“This minor was involved in not only fighting the victim with fists, but stomped on his head while he was defenseless on the ground prior to him being stabbed by his co-responsible,” Appleby said.
He said he discussed the plea agreement at length with Mendoza’s relatives, who were disappointed but understood the decision based on the evidence.
The minor originally was facing a sentence of 15 years to life in prison had he been convicted of second-degree murder as an adult. The maximum commitment time for the assault charge in juvenile court is three years.
The minor’s attorney, Kimberly Gonzales, asked that he be released from juvenile hall on GPS monitoring pending his disposition. “Disposition” is the word for sentencing in juvenile court.
She said the minor had no prior criminal record, never denied his involvement, cooperated with authorities and chose to immediately resolve his case.
“Further, there’s no evidence that (the minor) knew the adult co-defendant had a knife or that he even knew the adult co-defendant was allegedly stabbing the victim,” Gonzales said.
She said her client has had exceptional behavior while in juvenile hall and, had he originally been charged with assault rather than murder, he likely already would have been released prior to his disposition.
Appleby argued that the minor should remain detained for the safety of himself and the community and that he poses a flight risk because his mother lives in Central America.
Judge Jeff Mangar denied the defense’s request for release and scheduled the minor’s disposition for June 30.
Mujahid, the adult co-defendant, was held to answer on the charge of murder after the preliminary hearing and is scheduled for jury trail in July.