Two brothers, 17 and 16, charged with felony murder for allegedly shooting five people in The Jungle have pleaded not guilty.
James Taafulisia, 17, and Jerome Taafulisia, 16, each pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree felony murder and three counts of first-degree assault at their arraignment at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. Because of the seriousness of the crimes, both teens have been charged as adults.
Attorneys for the teens waived bail discussion; their next court hearing was set for Feb. 29.
A handful of the teens’ relatives and supporters were in the courtroom but did not speak to reporters after the hearing. The boys’ mother, who prosecutors say could be a material witness in the state’s case, did not appear to be among them.
A juvenile-court judge had entered no-contact orders at the boys’ first appearances last week, barring them from having contact with their mother.
At Thursday’s hearing, King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler ruled the teens’ mother could speak by phone with her sons, after defense attorney Dan Norman argued that James Taafulisia had a close bond with her.
Prosecutors said that all three brothers are wards of the state who had run away from foster homes repeatedly to rejoin their family. They most recently lived in tents beneath a freeway ramp next to Safeco Field.
The 13-year-old brother, who is charged with the same crimes in connection with the shootings, is being charged as a juvenile. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last week and could face incarceration up to his 21st birthday if convicted as charged.
All three are also charged with using a firearm in the commission of the crimes, which carries additional mandatory prison time for the two charged as adults.
If convicted as charged, the older teens face between 90 and 113 years in prison.
Prosecutors allege in charging documents that the three teens, who were familiar with The Jungle, had gone to the encampment Jan. 26 to rob one of the victims. There, prosecutors allege, they shot five people, two of whom died.
Police and prosecutors said the motive for the shootings was robbery and that the teens took money and drugs from their primary target.
Because of a 2014 change in state law, juveniles who are charged as adults are eligible to have their sentences reviewed by the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board after serving 20 years in prison.