LARGO — Three 15-year-olds appeared in court Tuesday in connection with the vicious beating of a younger boy on a school bus, and juvenile probation was recommended for two of them.
The case made national news when a security camera video of the attack went viral on the Internet. Now that video could become a key piece of evidence as Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Raymond Gross decides how to handle the charges against the three.
"It's hard to convey what happened in this case without actually seeing the video," Assistant State Attorney William F. Schopper told the judge.
Schopper told the judge the beating happened because two of the teenagers attempted to sell marijuana to the 13-year-old victim in school, and he refused.
Then, Schopper said, the 13-year-old followed the advice commonly given to students: He told adults what happened. School personnel confronted the other two teens and searched for marijuana but didn't find any.
Later, the 13-year-old and the two other boys wound up on the same school bus headed home. The beating was reportedly in retaliation. The two teens brought in another teen who hadn't been involved previously, Schopper said.
All three beat the 13-year-old "more times than you could count," he said. The boy's arm was broken, and "I believe the only reason he escaped further injury is he was able to basically conceal himself underneath the bus seat since he was being attacked on all three sides," Schopper said.
Two of the 15-year-olds are facing juvenile aggravated battery charges. The Department of Juvenile Justice has recommended nine months of court-supervised probation for both. Schopper argued for a stricter version of probation that would be monitored by the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Juvenile authorities are still preparing a sentencing recommendation for the third teenager, who is undergoing a behavioral evaluation.
He is facing juvenile aggravated battery and robbery charges.
Judge Gross set another hearing for Aug. 27 in all three cases.