By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - The 15-year-old son of a Canadian diplomat pleaded not guilty to murder and armed robbery charges stemming from an alleged botched drug deal on Monday and his lawyers said security footage from the incident exonerates him.
A Florida grand jury last week charged Marc Wabafiyebazu as an adult in connection with a shootout that killed his 17-year-old brother Jean and suspected drug dealer Joshua Wright, also 17.
The Wabafiyebazu brothers had recently moved to Miami with their mother, Roxanne Dube, Canada’s consul general in Miami. Dube had previously served as a member of the Canadian parliament and as the country’s ambassador to Zimbabwe.
“This highly publicized case involves a ... boy who did nothing more than sit in a car while his brother made a series of bad decisions which cost him his life,” according to the court filing.
Wabafiyebazu's lawyers have requested a hearing to argue for his release ahead of an expected trial.
Wabafiyebazu was arrested on March 30 after he and his brother went to a house after they called drug dealers seeking to buy 2 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated $5,000, according to a Miami police report.
Police said that after the shooting Marc Wabafiyebazu rushed into the house, grabbed a gun and began firing at one of the drug dealers. Following his arrest, Wabafiyebazu threatened to kill a police officer, it said.
Defense lawyers Curt Obront and Michael James Corey on Monday disputed the admissibility of a statement Marc Wabafiyebazu is alleged to have made to police admitting he and his brother went to the house to steal the drugs. The lawyers also said the younger brother sat in the car weaponless as his older brother entered the apartment.
"The State of Florida is in possession of security footage which completely exonerates Marc from the seven charges pending against him in this case," the defense said.
The video shows Marc Wabafiyebazu waiting in a car, unarmed, outside the house.
“The March 30 video even shows Marc pick up his cellular telephone to call for help,” the court document stated.
The first-degree murder charge in Florida carries a possible death sentence or life imprisonment, prosecutors said. However, Wabafiyebazu is unlikely to face such penalties if found guilty due to his age, former federal and state prosecutor David Weinstein said.
(Editing by David Adams, Susan Heavey and Bill Trott)