Joey Paul Bellinger, a 16-year-old Long Beach boy accused of gunning down two deaf brothers, killing one of them, in a Granada Hills street confrontation, denied the charges today in Sylmar Juvenile Court.
In his first court appearance in Los Angeles since his capture two weeks ago in Upstate New York, Bellinger was arraigned on charges of murder and attempted murder. Through his attorney, he denied responsibility for the Jan. 28 shooting of Cesar Vieira, 30, and Edward Vieira, 25, both of Palmdale. Cesar Vieira died after the shooting. His brother recovered.
Juvenile Court Judge Morton Rochman scheduled a hearing for May 16 at which he will decide whether Bellinger should be tried as an adult. A formal plea to the charges will again be entered at the hearing if the judge rules he should be tried as an adult.
Prosecutors want Bellinger tried as an adult because of the severity of the crime.
Los Angeles police said Bellinger shot the Vieiras in a parking lot at Devonshire Street and Balboa Boulevard after a confrontation at a nearby traffic signal. Police said a car containing five teen-agers forced the brothers, riding a motorcycle, into the parking lot. When the teen-agers got out to confront the Vieiras, Bellinger pulled a gun and shot them, police said.
Bellinger's attorney, Gerald Fogelman, said the teen-ager should be tried as a juvenile because he has no prior criminal record and was left emotionally traumatized by the murder of his older sister in Los Angeles in 1987.
"From what I see, he is a very scared young boy," Fogelman said after the hearing. "The daughter was brutally murdered. . . . The family never recovered from that."
Fogelman called it ironic and unfair that prosecutors want to try Bellinger as an adult when his sister's killer was sentenced to juvenile custody. "This was a traffic confrontation that escalated into a shooting," Fogelman said. "They want to put him in adult custody and prosecute him as an adult. That seems hard. I see a little boy in there that seems very scared."
Bellinger, wearing a gray sweat shirt and tan pants, did not speak during today's hearing. He was joined by his parents, Joseph Sr. and Phyllis Bellinger. His father has been charged with aiding and abetting the younger Bellinger's attempts to elude prosecution for a month after the shootings. He is free on bail.
Bellinger's parents refused to comment after the hearing.