Teens in Video Beating Case Charged as Adults

Eight Fla. teenagers face felony charges tied to a videotaped beating.

ByABC News via logo
February 26, 2009, 5:05 PM

April 11, 2008— -- Eight teens accused of taking part in a shocking videotaped beating of a 16-year-old girl will be tried as adults, according to Florida officials.

The teens, who are between the ages 14 and 18, face kidnapping and misdemeanor battery charges. Three also face a felony charge of witness tampering.

The teens charged in the case are Cara Murphy, 16; Britney Mayes, 17; Kayla Hassell, 15; Zachary Ashley, 17; Brittini Hardcastle, 17; Mercades Nichols, 17; April Cooper, 14; and Stephen Schumaker, 18.

A judge set bail Friday for each at $30,000 during their first court appearance.

The judge also issued a gag order requiring everyone involved to not speak about the case, according to the Associated Press.

In the videotape, released earlier this week by the Polk County Sheriff's Department, the 16-year-old victim was literally backed into a corner as fellow teens screamed at her, threatened her and ultimately beat her unconscious.

Two teenage males stood "lookout" as the high school cheerleader, a guest at the house where the beating allegedly occurred, is intermittently berated and pummeled by peers, according to authorities in Florida,

When the 35-minute beating is done, the girl was allegedly forced into a car and dumped at another friend's house. She is told to keep her mouth shut or else the next beating will be worse, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

"They lured her into the home for the express purpose of filming the attack and posting it on the Internet," Judd said. "This is outrageous behavior."

Judd released video Monday afternoon that captured three minutes of the March 30 beating inside the Lakeland, Fla., home of Mercades Nichols, 17. He also announced the arrest of eight teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 18, including Nichols.

The eight face felony battery and false imprisonment charges tied to the attack caught on tape and posted online for the world and law enforcement to see. The three teens accused of dumping the victim after the beating also face an additional felony kidnapping charge. Judd said he will urge the state prosecutor's office to charge all of the teens except the 14-year-old as adults.

"It's fair to say we were absolutely mortified when we saw these girls beating down this victim," Judd said. His intention in releasing the video was not to give the teenagers the fame they wanted, he added, but to educate parents about the type of behavior children may be involved in.

"They're paying a terrible penalty for getting what they wanted," Judd said, describing the teens' behavior as a "pack" mentality.

At one point during the beating, the target of the attack entered a bedroom, according to authorities and the raw video, and was met by another suspect, 14-year-old April Cooper. Cooper had been hiding and emerged, allegedly striking the teen several times in the face and then knocking the victim unconscious.