Originally scheduled for Wednesday, the sentencing of Brendan Depa, the former Matanzas High School student who pleaded to a count of aggravated battery on a school employee, has ben postponed to an undetermined date, and may not be held until past mid-March.
Circuit Judge Terence Perkins signed the open-ended postponement last week without scheduling a new hearing.
Kurt Teifke, Depa’s attorney, argued in a motion to postpone the sentencing that he needs additional time to “prepare mitigation” and for expert witnesses to prepare. The witnesses “have each been unavailable since last month and remain unavailable through Mid-March at the earliest due to their prior commitments to other attorneys litigating death penalty matters,” Teifke wrote in his motion. The prosecution did not oppose the motion, as its own expert had also been delayed.
Depa, who is autistic, was a 17-year-old special education student at Matanzas last February when he lost his temper over a disciplinary matter and attacked his paraprofessional, Joanne Nayditch, in a hallway at the school, knocking her out then pummeling her before staffers pulled him off of her. Depa also made threats against Naydich’s life when he was being led away by a sheriff’s deputy. There are questions as to whether school staff properly followed his Individualized Education Program in class–issues that likely will be part of the sentencing hearing.
Depa was originally charged as a juvenile. When video of the attack went viral, he was charged as an adult. An attempt by the defense to have him declared incompetent to proceed to trial failed. His first degree felony charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, though that’s almost certainly not the sentence he faces.
He tendered a plea in late October, leaving it to Perkins to set his sentence. Being an open plea, that leaves it to Perkins’s discretion to decide whether to sentence him as a youthful offender or as an adult, with mitigating factor potentially playing a role in the decision.
Depa was originally held at a juvenile jail in Duval County. Since he turned 18 in August, he has been at the Flagler County jail, where he has continued his education under the supervision of a volunteer private tutor and jail staff, recently successfully passing the Language Arts, Reading and Writing section of the GED, the high school equivalency diploma.