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AUSTIN EDITION Teen, prosecutors reach plea agreement

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Jose Luis Martinez was at a birthday party in Austin when a boy and girl came to pick up him and two others.

On that May night, Manuel Junior Velez came to the party seeking help for a fight he was going have with another teenager in downtown Austin, Martinez said Tuesday in Mower District Juvenile Court.

"We were going to just back him up," said Martinez, 16, of Albert Lea.

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Around 1 a.m. May 15, the four juvenile boys waited for a 17-year-old boy to walk out of El Palacio de la Cumbia bar, police reports say. When he walked out, the group attacked the boy, beating and stabbing him.

On Tuesday, Martinez pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. During his plea, Martinez stated several times that he never touched the 17-year-old but had been making sure no one intervened while the other three assaulted him.

Martinez also said he didn't know a knife had been used in the fight until shortly after they left the scene.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will dismiss two charges of aiding and abetting attempted murder and rescind their request to certify Martinez as an adult.

Martinez will be on probation until age 21 under extended juvenile jurisdiction. He'll also have to testify, if needed, at any of his co-defendants' trials.

Judge Fred Wellmann approved a request from both attorneys to allow Martinez to receive his juvenile disposition, or sentencing, in Freeborn County. The judge also allowed Martinez to be moved from a juvenile detention center in Rochester to a youth shelter there until a spot is open at a Freeborn County shelter.

The prosecution's recommendation for disposition will be to place Martinez in a juvenile residential treatment program, Assistant County Attorney Jeremy Clinefelter said in court.

Juan Raul Charles, 16, an Albert Lea boy who is Martinez's cousin, was sentenced June 29 in Mower District Juvenile Court for also pleading guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. He's spending at least six months at a residential treatment program in Duluth.

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Velez, an Albert Lea resident who recently turned 18, and Abraham Rodriguez, 16, of Carroll, Iowa, each face charges of first- and second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and aiding and abetting charges for each count.

Velez faces the charges in criminal court after being certified as an adult. He's set for a contested evidentiary hearing Aug. 12.

Rodriguez, 16, faces the charges in juvenile court but is scheduled for an Aug. 17 hearing to decide if he should be tried as an adult.

Velez told police he hit the boy in the face with a bottle and stabbed him about six times in the back with a folding knife, the criminal complaint says. He allegedly was seeking revenge against the teen for something he believed was done to his girlfriend.

Rodriguez allegedly stabbed the boy in the head.

The injured teen has since moved out of Austin.

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