Derrick Battle's attorneys maintain that the 16-year-old acted in self defense on Jan. 14, protecting his life with a baseball bat during an altercation with two teenagers he believed were violent gang members.
A Fairfax County Circuit Court grand jury and prosecuting attorney think otherwise. The Commonwealth of Virginia brought a second charge — malicious wounding — against Battle during an arraignment hearing in Fairfax County Circuit Court last Friday, April 29. Battle was charged with aggravated maiming in March, according to court records.
"It is our argument that he did have justification for what he did," said defense attorney Vincent Robertson, before Friday's hearing.
Herndon Police responded to a malicious wounding call at 5:03 p.m. on Jan. 14 in the 1000 block of Elden Street, near the end of the Dulles Park shopping center on the sidewalk at Alabama Drive. According to police reports, a group of five teenage males confronted and assaulted a 16-year-old and 17-year-old. One victim was air-lifted to a hospital where he spent almost three weeks in critical condition.
"[Battle] is very lucky he is not being charged with murder," said John Murphy, assistant commonwealth's attorney, during a hearing in March.
<b>THAT'S JUST ONE VERSION<b> of the story, according to Robertson and Michael Ron Worthy, Battle’s attorneys.
Worthy and Robertson claim Battle and his friend were the ones who were first confronted. After playing Nintendo games at a friend's house on his day off from working at Fuddruckers, Battle was walking home with a friend when a black car started driving back and forth by them, according to Worthy. After exchanging words with the people in the car, "next thing he knew he was being chased by victims with bottles in their hands," Worthy said in March.
On Friday, Robertson said Battle believed the two teenagers were violent gang members, who had a history of carrying deadly weapons including sticks with nails. All attended Herndon High School, Battle's attorneys said. They claim the two victims had prior offenses and were suspended from school.
One "grabbed my client by his coat when he was trying to get away," Robertson said, last Friday. "One hit him with a bottle."
Worthy and Robertson say that a third party — not Battle — telephoned Carl Kenneth Prioleau, 17, and told him to bring a baseball bat to help.
<b>PROSECUTOR MURPHY</b>says that witnesses saw that the victims were outnumbered two to five in the attacks and that a security guard had to stop the assault from continuing.
"A Hispanic male was down and out on the ground with the defendant teeing up on his head," Murphy said, during a hearing in March.
Robertson and Worthy say the story isn't that simple.
"When Prioleau brought the bat, there was a struggle for the bat — whomever got that bat was the person who was going to use that bat," Robertson said on Friday.
BATTLE HAS NO criminal history and poses no behavior problems, said his mother, his attorneys and his former teachers from Herndon High School.
Outside the courtroom after the hearing on Friday, April 29, Battle's mother shared his report card from Juvenile Detention Center and progress reports. Battle has received A's in all his school classes and earned certificates for outstanding behavior while in the Juvenile Detention Center.
According to Fairfax County school records presented to the court by Worthy, Battle was taking Physics, Latin II, and excelling in English class at Herndon High School, before his arrest. "Derrick has tremendous academic potential and is a young man admired by those who know him," said one report.
<b>PRIOLEAU'S SENTENCING</b> set for last Friday, was rescheduled for later in the year. Prioleau pleaded guilty to his role in the attack in March.
In a courtroom two doors away from Battle's hearing, Prioleau's attorney, Leda Gottleib, said her client will cooperate with the prosecution.
On the night of Jan. 14, after the fight, Battle and his mother, a 22-year member of the U.S. Marine Corps, went straight to police when he got home to alert them what happened, his attorneys said. He was arrested a couple days later.
Battle's and Prioleau's attorneys both requested for their clients to be released on bond, until their next hearings.
Both requests were denied.
Battle and Prioleau remain at the Juvenile Detention Center.