Sara Patterson, Syracuse, August 21, 2013
Onondaga County Family Court Judge Michael Hanuszczak today sentenced a 16-year-old to 18 months of confinement for the killing of a 51-year-old man.
The sentence was the maximum the judge could have handed down to the teen, who was recently found guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the beating death of Michael Daniels. The boy was 15 at the time of the incident and has maintained his innocence since his arrest at the end of May.
The judge, who is required by law to sentence a juvenile delinquent to the “least restrictive available alternative consistent with the child’s needs and best interests and the need to protect the community,” said he made his decision based on a variety of factors.
Those included a sentencing recommendation from the probation department, as well as a review of the boy’s school records, which showed a history of truancy and suspensions that involved threats and intimidation of his teachers, he said.
The judge noted that the goal of Family Court is rehabilitation, not punishment, but said he would be “remiss” if he didn’t take into account the “viciousness” of the crime.
Daniels was standing alone on the corner of West Brighton Avenue and Cannon Street when he was approached by at least two teenagers and beaten to death. Several witnesses testified that around seven or eight teenagers were present during the incident, and that the beating happened after someone suggested the group play a street game called “knockout.”
A 13-year-old co-defendant in the case has pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and is expected to be sentenced next week.
“Mr. Daniels not only lost his life, but he was attacked without provocation,” Hanuszczak said. He said no testimony given at trial offered “a shred of insight or explanation” as to why Daniels was killed. He called the crime “senseless.”
“No one should have to fear being beaten to death as they are standing on a street corner minding their own business,” he concluded.