TORONTO – A Canadian teenager charged in a double murder in Florida that left his older brother dead is considering a plea bargain that could help him avoid a lengthy prison term, a source familiar with the proceedings told The Canadian Press.
Marc Wabafiyebazu, 15, is expected to return to court in two weeks for a hearing in which a plea deal could be reached.
At a hearing Monday, prosecutor Marie Mato told court in Miami that Wabafiyebazu had successfully passed the physical and psychological evaluations to be admitted to boot camp.
Judge Teresa Pooler, who has refused to allow the accused to have bail pending trial, welcomed the news that the teen had passed the evaluation, making boot camp a possible alternative to prison, the source said.
Wabafiyebazu, of Ottawa, son of Canada’s former consul general to Miami, has been in adult custody since the incident March 30 in which his brother Jean, 18, and another teen were killed.
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Boot camp is essentially a four-month military program in which participants go through physical drills and school programs six days a week, and would occur in a prison with other juveniles. Visitors are prohibited for the duration, but a phone call is allowed 30 days after admission and each month after.
If he were to complete the program successfully, the teen would likely spend two months doing “trade” work — for example in a warehouse or construction — before being released to his mother, Roxanne Dube, under probation-like conditions.
Both Mato and Wabafiyebazu’s lawyer, Curt Obront, agreed to try to have a plea proposal in place for a hearing on Dec. 15. The next boot camp intake is slated to start two days later.
Mato did make it clear she had not agreed to the boot camp idea, saying she would need the approval of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle before she could accept any plea deal.
Ed Griffith, spokesman for the state attorney’s office, said Wabafiyebazu’s meeting the criteria for boot-camp admission was an “important step” but stressed no deal had been made.
“The whole matter is still unresolved,” Griffith said.
Dube, who resigned as consul general in August, declined to comment in light of the sensitivity of the situation.
Although the younger sibling was outside the residence where the deadly gunplay occurred and was never accused of shooting or even threatening anyone, police charged him with felony murder on the basis of his purported admission that he and his brother had planned to rob a drug dealer, sparking the violence.
Despite his age, Wabafiyebazu, who has no criminal record, was indicted as an adult and theoretically faces a lengthy prison term on conviction.
Earlier this fall, Johann Ruiz-Perez, 21, and Anthony Rodriguez, 19, agreed to testify against the teen in exchange for the withdrawal of the murder charges they faced in the deaths of Jean Wabafiyebazu and 17-year-old Joshua Wright.
Instead, both pleaded guilty to drug-related charges and were sentenced to 364 days in county jail, participation in a boot-camp program, and five years probation.
Rodriguez, the alleged drug dealer who was injured in the March shooting, had been arrested a month earlier for drug trafficking and possession of a loaded gun but was released without charge in mid-March — just a few weeks before the deadly shootout.