County Attorney’s Office defends plea deal given to man who threw child from Mall of America balcony

“We were in constant consultation with the family and they are satisfied with this."

WCCO Radio Newsroom
May 14, 2019 - 2:28 pm

Bloomington Police

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The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is defending the plea deal given to the man who threw a five-year-old boy from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America, after a backlash from members of the public frustrated with what many viewed as a lenient sentence.

Emmanuel Aranda, 24, of Minneapolis, pled guilty Tuesday during a hearing in Hennepin County court to attempted first degree murder and took a deal, agreeing to a 19-year sentence. The victim, who has been identified as Landon, was seriously injured after a 40-foot fall.

Aranda reportedly told investigators he went to the mall looking for someone to kill, and chose the boy at random.  

According to Chuck Laszewski, the spokesperson for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Aranda agreed to the maximum possible sentence they could of asked for in a plea deal under state law, and had the case gone to trial, a judge would have only been able to add one more additional year to Aranda's sentence. The maxium sentence for attempted first degree murder under state statute is 20 years. 

Laszewski said that the victim's family had approved of the plea deal.

“We were in constant consultation with the family and they are satisfied with this. This allows for justice one month after the incident. It saved the family a lot of pain and further suffering from having to have a drawn out court case, including a possible trial,” he said.

Many News Talk 830 WCCO listeners were outraged when they heard that Aranda had only been sentenced to 19 years, including producer and podcast host Sheletta Brundidge. In an appearance on “Hey, it’s Cory Hepola” show, Brundidge echoed the views of many listeners when she said Aranda’s actions had likely traumatized the victim’s family for life and also instilled fear in the community.

Marsh Halberg, a criminal defense attorney not associated with the case, said he thought the plea deal was a good result for the government, and that people who thought the sentence wasn’t long enough should direct their frustration elsewhere.

“I don’t think people should be angry at the County Attorney's Office if they think they were not harsh enough. The maximum is 20. He's getting 19. It's a guaranteed result. It's done. It's over now,” Halberg said. “ If you don't like the law that that's the maximum, then change the law but don't be mad at the County Attorney's Office.”

GoFundMe page to cover the boy's medical expenses has surpassed more than $1 million from nearly 30,000 donations. His family has said he is conscious and is no longer in critical condition.

The page also has a statement from Landon's family on the boy's progress:

"As hearings begin this week, the family would like to inform media that they will not be providing commentary on any court proceedings. The child continues to heal and the family asks for continued prayers and privacy. In addition, the family has retained the communications firm Tunheim in order to help respond to media requests."

Aranda remains in custody without bail.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 3.