Posted on December 1, 2023

Mother of the Hulking 6ft 6in Boy Who Brutally Beat Teacher’s Aide Unconscious Says ‘Prison Is a Death Sentence’

Kamal Sultan, Daily Mail, November 30, 2023

The mother of a 6-foot 6-inch autistic teenager who viscously beat a teacher aide unconscious in Florida has claimed prison is a ‘death sentence’ for her son.

Leanne Depa spoke out for the first time since Brendan Depa, then 17, violently attacked Joan Naydich at Matanzas High School in February after he was told to stop playing on his Nintendo Switch.

The teenager, now 18, was seen punching and kicking the educator in the back and head until she lay on the ground unconscious. He pleaded no contest as an adult for first-degree aggravated battery.

‘I am terrified for my child,’ Leanne told NewsNation’s Banfield through tears. ‘I feel like if he gets sentenced to prison, it’s a death sentence for him.

She apologized to Naydich for the attack but pleaded for her to ‘show mercy’ after the victim called on the teenager to be locked up for the maximum of 30 years.

Brendan is set to be sentenced for the attack on Naydich in which she suffered five broken ribs, a severe concussion and loss of hearing in one of her ears.

The teacher’s aide alleged she was placed on an unpaid leave of absence shortly after returning to work in August under a different title and has been surviving on charity from the community. Her gofundme campaign has raised $120,000 so far.

Naydich has been vocal in her calls for the teenager to face the harshest possible sentence.

But his mother Leanne has begged her to show him mercy. ‘I am so sorry for what my son did,’ she said.

‘Nobody should ever have to go through that but at the same time but please consider he has had a hard life and he has gone through so much trauma in his life.

‘He has autism. Please show mercy to him.’

She added: ‘He’s scared and to have your child call and cry and say I don’t want to die, it’s awful.

‘It’s devastating that my heart is breaking.’

Leanne has questioned why Brendan was charged as an adult and said she was told his severe autism was not a defense.

‘He was originally charged as a juvenile and two days later he was direct filed and his [autism] was not considered,’ she said.

‘My understanding is that autism is not a defense and it can’t even be considered until the sentencing phase.’

Leanne does not understand why her son’s Nintendo Switch was allowed to be part of his day and that previous attempts to remove it from him resulted in a crisis team being called.

‘That’s something I ask every day and I don’t understand why,’ she said.

‘In his IEP it was stated that in the intensive behavior group home that he was living in, if they ever had to remove it as a consequence, they called in the crisis team.

‘The original IEP called for a token economy to motivate him to do his work so he could earn tokens to go to things like a snack closet.

‘This year he had a new teacher. It was her first year teaching and I don’t know if she didn’t understand the IEP, or if she didn’t read it.

‘But she approached the group home and asked the group home to send it in.’

She added that she did not want to send him to public school but had no choice.

‘He originally was in an autism behavioral hospital back before Covid hit. He was placed in a behavioral group home and I questioned it at the beginning,’ Leanne said.

‘I had always home-schooled him because he didn’t handle the school environment. I asked the group home, did he have to go to public school, could he not do school online.

‘I was assured by them that all their clients went to public school.

‘So even though he was a level six, I never thought he belonged in public school. I didn’t have a choice.’

Naydich previously told Fox35: ‘I was attacked on February 21st and I feel like I’m just constantly being attacked.

The educator said she has been struggling to get her workers’ compensation case resolved.

She claimed she returned to work in August under a different title but was placed on unpaid leave just a few days later.

Naydich said she is frustrated with the lack of support from the Flagler County School District. She also revealed she has not watched the harrowing video of her beating since it was released and does not want to.

Naydich said Brendan was angry with another member of staff who did not allow him to play on his Nintendo Switch.

She confirmed she did not take his device from him before the attack.

She has visited several different doctors who are searching for a diagnosis for some of the neurological symptoms she now has.

‘Everybody that knows me or knew me [before the attack], knows that I’m a totally different person now,’ she said. ‘My whole life was just turned upside down.’

Naydich claimed her speech has slowed, she has issues with patience and frequently has difficulty with routine cognitive functions.

‘Unfortunately, a lot of my injuries that are not visible I’m going to have for the rest of my life,’ she added.

Brendan has pleaded no contest to the charge and now faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison which is what Naydich wants.

She said she is willing to speak up at the court hearing if necessary.

‘I want to make sure he is not able to walk the streets freely,’ she added.

‘I have no idea what closure looks like right now. I just want to be whole again.’

Brendan had three prior battery arrests before the February attack and was in a prison fight in September, the Post reported.

He was led shackled into court in Florida wearing an orange jumpsuit on October 30 to plea to the charges. The minimum recommended prison sentence is just short of three years.

His lawyer, Kurt Teifke, sought to have him declared incompetent to stand trial, because he is autistic.

A court-appointed psychologist found Brendan was in fact competent to stand trial and Circuit Judge Terence Perkins will decided his fate early next year.

Brendan’s family had hoped to minimize or eliminate prison time altogether and instead focus on probation and treatment for their son, but the prosecution appears to have been unwilling to negotiate.

Naydich has also ‘shown no interest in mitigating what penalties Depa might face’.

He is currently being held at the Flagler County Jail on $1 million bond and his sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 31.