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Competency issue raised in Las Vegas teen-teacher attack case

Eldorado High School
Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP
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A person walks outside Eldorado High School in Las Vegas Friday, April 8, 2022. A student who attacked a teacher in a classroom at the school is facing counts of attempted murder and sexual assault, according to Las Vegas Metro Police.

A defense attorney raised doubt Tuesday about the competency of a 16-year-old student to face sex assault and attempted murder charges in a violent after-school attack that left a Las Vegas high school teacher injured and unconscious in her classroom last week.

A local judge confirmed with the teen’s lawyer and a prosecutor that state law calls for him to be prosecuted as an adult if the case moves forward on those charges and others including first-degree kidnapping, which could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

Defense attorney Paul Adras told the Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure he’ll seek a mental evaluation for his client ahead of a May 6 competency hearing in state court.

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The Associated Press is not naming the teen, pending a competency determination. He is being held as an adult on $500,000 bail at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas.

Additional charges including more counts of sexual assault and battery by strangulation were added Monday, bringing to 15 the number of felonies he faces. He has not been asked to enter a plea.

Las Vegas police said the student entered the female teacher’s classroom at Eldorado High School after school on Thursday “to talk about his grades” before punching and choking her until she lost consciousness.

Officials said the teacher was hospitalized. Neither her name or the extent of her injuries were immediately made public.

Outside court, Adras called it too early in the case to comment on his client’s behalf, and acknowledged intense public interest since his arrest.

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“I know there’s a lot of information going out on social media,” the attorney told The Associated Press. “We’re asking everyone to respect the process.”

Adras added that prosecutor Lindsey Moors informed him the case may be presented to a grand jury behind closed doors.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, outside court, expressed frustration with escalating violence in Clark County schools, the nation’s fifth-largest district, and told reporters that he spoke Tuesday with school Superintendent Jesus Jara.

“This is an example of the kind of behavior that will not be tolerated,” Wolfson said of the allegations against the teen.

Wolfson, Jara and other officials convened a news conference two weeks ago to call for calm in the sprawling school district, which has more than 300,000 students and 18,000 teachers at about 336 campuses. Wolfson, the top prosecutor in Las Vegas since 2012, is running for reelection this year.

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Jara blamed incidents on the “stress, anxieties and isolation of the (coronavirus) pandemic.”

The same day the news conference was held, a campus police officer fired three gunshots at a moving car that had struck a girl amid a report of an after-school fight in a parking lot at a downtown Las Vegas high school. Among four teenage non-students in the car, the driver and a passenger received minor wounds, authorities said. The girl struck by the car was not seriously hurt.

Classrooms are empty this week during spring break.

Since schools opened in August, campus police have reported 3,000 assaults and fights, and confiscated more than 25 guns. Brawls at some schools have involved non-students, adults and parents. The mothers of two students have been accused in separate cases of using their vehicles as weapons to defend their children from schoolmates.