Two Fairfax County teens pleaded guilty in Alexandria Circuit Court to the murder of 16-year-old Schuyler Jones.
Dressed in suits, 16-year-old Patrick Casey and 17-year-old Brian Adem, both entered guilty pleas to involuntary manslaughter in the Sept. 13, murder. Another juvenile, 17, of Alexandria, also pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in juvenile court in December.
Casey and Adem face from 1-10 years of incarceration in an adult or juvenile facility while the other juvenile, who remains unnamed because of his age, could serve time in a juvenile facility until his 21st birthday.
Juvenile Judge Stephen W. Rideout found probable cause to send Casey and Adem to Circuit Court to face charges as adults but kept the third youth in juvenile court.
All three defendants were originally charged with second degree murder.
“The facts in this case made a plea of involuntary manslaughter reasonable,” said Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel. “As Judge Rideout indicated in his ruling, it might have been difficult for us to prove malice beyond a reasonable doubt.”
IN ACCEPTING the pleas last week, Judge Donald Haddock questioned both Casey and Adem. “Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty,” he asked.
“Yes,” both Casey and Adem responded.
Schuyler was murdered during an altercation at Market Square. Testimony at the preliminary hearing indicated that the 17-year-old had a history of antagonism with Schuyler. That antagonism led to a fight that was allegedly started by the third youth with Schuyler in the late winter or early spring of last year. That fight was caught on video by another teen.
While the video showed that the 17-year-old threw the first punch in that incident, Schuyler threw the final punch that led to the youth's having a bloody nose. Schuyler apologized but witnesses indicated that there continued to be animosity between the pair.
On Sept. 13, the Alexandria youth was at his home with a number of friends. The group learned that Schuyler and some of his friends were at Market Square and then proceeded to go there. One witness testified that the 17-year-old stopped him on the street and asked him to go to Market Square with the group because there was going to be a fight with some T. C. Williams students.
Someone called Casey and Adem at one of their friends’ homes and asked them to join the group at Market Square. Testimony was unclear as to whether Casey and Adem knew why they were going to Market Square.
WHEN ALL OF the teens arrived, Casey called Schuyler over to the group. Casey asked the unnamed youth if Schuyler was the one that he had the “beef with.” The youth nodded that Schuyler was the one and Casey hit Schuyler. Adem, who arrived on the square after the altercation began, struck Schuuyler in the back of the head, the fatal blow, according to the medical examiner. Attorneys for both Casey and Adem have never disputed that their clients struck Schuyler. They have denied that there was malice or premeditation.
“Based on my knowledge of the facts, it was the appropriate plea,” said local defense attorney Joseph Bowman.
There was no agreement about sentencing. “These pleas allow for these defendants to face significant punishment for this crime,” Sengel said. “The Commonwealth will argue for one thing and the defense will argue for another and the judge will decide. He has several options. He can sentence them to serve their time in a juvenile facility or an adult facility or some combination of the two.”
A PRE-SENTENCE report will help the judge in making that decision. “A judge will look at whether these defendants are good candidates for supervision in a juvenile facility,” Bowman said.
“In the cases of the two in Circuit Court, who struck blows that led to Schuyler’s death, if I were their attorney, I would prepare them to serve some time detained. In the other case, I would also prepare my client to pack his toothbrush and pajamas before the sentencing hearing, but I would argue for supervised probation. He has no history of contact with the court system and has the family resources to ensure a degree of compliance that lends itself to probation. It will be up to the judges in each of the cases.”
Casey and Adem are scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, and the 17-year-old youth is scheduled to be sentenced on March 15.