A Laguna Beach teen-ager pleaded guilty this week to stabbing a former classmate and assaulting the victim’s friends last year following a dispute aired on Facebook.
Michael Jason Wilson, 17, who was charged as an adult and thus fully identified in the proceedings, entered his plea July 11 in Orange County Superior Court to one felony count of aggravated assault with a knife and a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury. He was sentenced to a year in jail, three years of formal probation, and restitution for the three victims, according to a statement from Asst. District Attorney Caroline Smith.
Wilson was on probation for burning a Prop. 8 sign when he was arrested last year for three counts of aggravated assault, police said. He was in custody for eight days before being released on $65,000 bail. He is to begin serving his sentence Sept. 12, according to Delphine Berryhill, whose son, Julian C., was stabbed in the stomach and his left ring finger severed in the attack.
Julian as well as another companion involved in the incident testified during a preliminary hearing on Feb. 15.
“The strength of their testimony helped settle the case,” speculated the father of Nicolas L., who was also injured in the incident, but was not called to testify. Though the father was prohibited from entering the courtroom, a standard procedure for potential witnesses in a criminal trial, police and the prosecutor told him that the teens’ testimony was credible.
“We just wanted it to be over,” said the mother of Sam S., who did testify, but declined to comment further.
Added Berryhill, “It’s an incredible relief for Julian to not have to go through the trial,” which was set for Sept. 6. Her son, a junior enrolled at Laguna Beach High School last year, withdrew from school and completed his senior year studying at home in part due to a lengthy recuperation that involved several surgeries.
“He grew up a lot; he came out of this stronger,” Berryhill said. “Now he can move on.” Even so, she has empathy for her son’s attacker. “He’s a kid who made a really bad mistake.”
Wilson’s defense attorney, Paul S. Meyer, of Costa Mesa, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Prior to the attack of March 11, 2010, then-16-year-old Wilson, who previously attended LBHS, engaged in an online rivalry with Julian on Facebook and through text messages and e-mail, according to the DA’s statement. Parents involved who read the Facebook entries obtained by police at the time said that the physical confrontation stemmed from a verbal dispute a week or so earlier when Julian told Wilson to quit picking on another friend.
The two agreed to meet at Wilson’s home on March 11 and Julian was driven to Wilson’s home accompanied by three schoolmates.
Outside the home, Wilson confronted Julian with a 12-inch kitchen knife, stabbing him in the stomach. The three friends waiting in the car ran to aid Julian and to disarm Wilson. A struggle ensued with Nicholas L. and Sam S., who also suffered knife wounds to their hands and arms. The fourth friend was not physically injured.
“Julian could have died; my son pushed his intestines back in his stomach,” said the father of Nicholas, whose injuries incapacitated his hands and temporarily derailed the high school senior’s hopes of entering film school by a year.
The four teens retreated to their car and drove away, but flagged down a passing police officer for help and were transported to the hospital for treatment.