A Florida paraprofessional whom a Matanzas High School autistic student attacked has refused to support a more lenient sentence for the teen.
On Feb. 21, 17-year-old Brendan Depa attacked his teacher’s aid, Joan Naydich, when she wouldn’t allow him to play his Nintendo Switch in class. The incident was caught on the school’s surveillance video, where Depa was seen kicking and punching the teacher in the back and head, knocking her unconscious. The teen weighs 270 pounds and stands 6’6.
Naydich was taken to the hospital and treated for her injuries. Her family launched a GoFundMe that raised over $100,000 to assist with medical and living expenses while she was out of work.
Depa, now 18, is being charged as an adult and faces up to 30 years in prison.
Initially, the autistic student was charged as a juvenile, which would have carried a lesser sentence. In June, a hearing was held to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. Circuit Judge Terence Perkins decided Depa was competent to stand trial after hearing the testimony of two psychologists. One clinician diagnosed the teen with psychosis and described him as “severely autistic, often violent and unpredictable and requiring extreme assistance.“ The other said that Depa was autistic but aware and able to withstand a trial.
Depa’s attorney, Kurt Teifke, voiced his concerns about the judge’s decision.
“I have great concerns,” the attorney said. “I am not confining my opinions to diagnosis. Not at all. I’m talking about its manifestations. I’m talking about the behavior and the interactions and, frankly, everything that happens.”
Teifke described his client’s condition as “a cocktail of mental health disorders.”
Depa appeared in court on Oct. 11 for a pre-trial hearing. The 18-year-old teen is expected to plead guilty to avoid trial. His lawyer asked for an Oct. 30 plea hearing.
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