The felony murder case against the 17-year-old suspect in the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old girl last week on Elmer Avenue in Buffalo will go to superior court.
His 14-year-old accomplice’s case will continue to be heard in family court.
A Buffalo shooting case that saw a teenage suspect released on bail this week has family and law enforcement officials questioning whether changes to bail rules have gone too far.
A week to the day after Emily Keiper of Niagara Falls was killed during what authorities say was a marijuana deal gone wrong, two suspects in her murder have appeared before Family Court Judge Brenda Freeman.
The 17-year-old, who authorities believe was the shooter, has remained behind bars at East Ferry Juvenile Detention Center since his arrest on Saturday. He appeared in court on Friday in handcuffs, wearing a beige prison jumpsuit over a blue sweatshirt as well as a paper mask.
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The 14-year-old, who is also charged with murder, was released on $50,000 bail, prompting outrage from the victim’s family and law enforcement. He showed up in court as his lawyers had announced, accompanied by his mother and other family members.
Lawyers for the suspects have not requested any changes to bail, but Judge Freedman said she wanted to publicly explain the reasons for her decision to grant the young suspect bail.
She said prosecutors do not believe the 14-year-old was the shooter “in this particularly horrific incident” and that he cooperated with authorities. Also, she pointed out her age.
“Bail is not intended to deter and punish,” she said.
She noted that the 14-year-old had voluntarily agreed to participate in the services offered through probation in the meantime.
Johnny Religa told The Buffalo News on Monday that his family, already broken and reeling from the homicide, felt even more traumatized to learn that the 14-year-old who was allegedly involved in the shooting was cleared to be released on $50,000 bond.
Freedman made it clear to the boy that he must return to all of his court appearances, with the next scheduled for September 9.
“I expect to see you again on that date and at that time,” she said.
Florina Altshiler, a lawyer representing the young suspect, highlighted her client’s youth, noting that he is preparing to start ninth grade next month.
“He is a child. He is 14 years old. His case will remain in family court. He is charged with the felony of murder on the basis of which is attempted robbery,” she said.
Under youth criminal law, his case could have been transferred to a higher court if it was a robbery.
“There are no charges here, this is a complete theft,” she said.
“It’s a very sad situation for everyone involved,” she said.