Canadian diplomat's teen son pleads no contest to Miami killings
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 19, 2016 4:12AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 19, 2016 12:54PM EST
The teenaged son of a Canadian diplomat pleaded no contest Friday to reduced charges of third-degree felony murder related to a double killing in Miami -- even though he had no part in the gunplay that left his older brother dead.
In exchange for his plea, Marc Wabafiyebazu, 15, of Ottawa, will have to serve six months in a boot camp starting next week, followed by 10 months of modified house arrest and a maximum eight years' probation.
If he completes the sentence without incident, the teen will have no criminal conviction registered against him.
"Marc has his future," his mother Roxanne Dube, Canada's former consul general in Miami, told The Canadian Press. "He's going to be saved."
Wabafiyebazu, Dube's younger son, has been in custody since last March 30, when he was arrested outside a Miami apartment in which his 18-year-old brother Jean Wabafiyebazu and another teen were shot dead.
Prosecutors did not allege the younger sibling had any direct role in the bloodshed, apparently the result of his brother's attempt to rob a drug dealer of 800 grams of marijuana. However, they maintained Wabafiyebazu had known of the scheme when they drove in their mom's car to what police called the "drug den."
As a result, under Florida's felony law, they charged the teen as an adult with multiple offences, including felony first-degree murder, which carries a minimum 40 years in prison.
Under the plea deal approved by the state attorney, however, the prosecution made a rare concession to reduce the two main charges he faced to third-degree murder. Wabafiyebazu also pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of aggravated battery and attempted armed robbery.
"Essentially, he is paying the price for Jean," Dube said. "He is also pleading to the murder of his own brother."
While a "no contest" plea has the same basic effect as a guilty plea, the accused doesn't actually admit guilt.
Wabafiyebazu's two co-accused, including the drug dealer who fled the scene with his drugs and a handgun, were granted bail soon after also being charged with lesser felony-murder crimes. Prosecutors agree to drop those charges in exchange for their commitment to testify against Wabafiyebazu and a guilty plea.
Last fall, both co-accused pleaded guilty to minor drug charges and were sentenced to boot camp, house arrest and probation which, if successfully completed, would also mean no conviction.
Much of the prosecution's case against Wabafiyebazu rested on a spontaneous confession a rookie police officer said the youth had made from the back seat of a cruiser as he was taken to a detention facility. Police had denied his requests to call his mother and did not warn him that anything he said could be used against him.
"This is one of the most serious cases I've had in this division in a long time," Circuit Court Judge Teresa Pooler said in approving the deal. She also warned the teen that many people don't successfully get through their conditional sentences.
Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the Miami-State State Attorney's Office, called the plea deal an appropriate way to handle this "sad and tragic situation."
"This gives him a chance to straighten out his life," Griffith said.
Dube stepped down last August as consul general, a post she had taken up less than two months before the deadly encounter.
In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, she talked extensively of the struggle to cope with the death of her older son while trying to support his devastated younger brother, who found himself behind bars and facing the prospect of a lengthy prison term.
The teen, whom she described as the son every mother would want, had never been in trouble with the law.