BY DAVID OVALLE
Video surveillance “completely exonerates” a Canadian teen charged in connection with a violent marijuana robbery that led to the fatal shooting of his older brother, defense attorneys claimed Monday.
The defense theory was outlined in a court filing for 15-year-old Marc Wabafiyebazu, whose attorneys formally entered a plea of not guilty during a hearing Monday.
Marc is the son of Roxanne Dube, Canada’s consul general in Miami. The violent killing of his brother, and his arrest on attempted armed robbery and felony murder charges, has garnered intense media coverage in their native Canada.
A grand jury last week indicted Marc, a Palmetto High School student. In Florida, suspects can be charged with felony murder if they participate in a crime — in Marc’s case, attempted armed robbery — that leads to someone’s death.
Drug deal gone bad?
Miami police say Marc and his older brother, 17-year-old Jean, arranged a deal last month to buy 2 pounds of marijuana for $4,800. But all along, they planned to rob the drug dealers at an apartment in the Coral Way neighborhood, investigators believe.
Inside the apartment, a shootout erupted. Jean was killed, as was drug dealer Joshua Wright, 17, a former Coral Gables High School student. Two others were wounded.
On Monday, Marc’s defense team laid out its strategy in detail, saying the teen “did nothing more than sit in a car while his brother made a series of bad decisions which cost him his life.”
In their court filing, lawyers described video surveillance obtained by Miami police detectives showing all the players arriving by car to the Coral Way-area apartment where the drug deal was to unfolded.
The video shows Marc sitting in his mother’s black BMW, unarmed.
“He would be a very poor lookout or backup for his brother in the event the alleged armed robbery went poorly,” lawyers Curt Obront and Michael James Corey wrote in an 18-page filing asking a judge to allow March out on bond before trial.
After the shots erupt, according to the defense, the video shows Marc exiting the car in confusion, go inside the apartment and then emerge. Marc is seen following one of the drug dealers, Anthony Rodriguez, but the video “does not show Marc shoot” at Rodriguez, threaten or even touch him.”
Police believe that after the shooting, Marc rushed in, grabbed one of his brother’s two pistols and began firing at Rodriguez as the man ran away.
Sources with knowledge of the investigation say Marc told a police officer he fired at Rodriguez — and .40-caliber bullet casings found outside the apartment, out of the camera’s view, support the belief he did indeed fire at the fleeing man.
Rodriguez and Johann Ruiz have also been indicted for lesser felony murder charges for allegedly participating in the drug deal that led to Wright and Jean’s deaths.
According to police reports, Marc confessed to his role in planning the armed robbery as a transport officer was taking him to the juvenile detention center. He also said he and his brother had committed robberies before and “had done the same type thing in Canada,” according to an arrest report.
Marc’s lawyers, in their court filing, blasted the Miami police’s arrest report, saying the supposed “spontaneous” admissions were not admissible in court and “highly suspect.” The teen was never read his Miranda rights informing of him he had the right to remain to silent, the lawyers said.
The defense strategy is clear: Slain brother Jean was to blame.
“Lost in all of the media attention surrounding this incident is the fact that Marc is a 15-year-old child. He is not a hardened gang member,” lawyers wrote. “He is a just a shy kid who did not know anyone in Miami other than his troubled brother.”