A 16-year-old boy who was given an unusually high sentence last year for beating a Metro driver unconscious is back in trouble, this time for an unprovoked attack on a man at the Renton Transit Center earlier this month.

Share story

When 14-year-old Solinuu Leae faced a juvenile-court judge last year for beating a female Metro driver unconscious, his mother begged for a light sentence.

“My son is a victim,” the teen’s mother said during Leae’s sentencing for second-degree assault. “I do not believe he is guilty of hitting…. My son could not have hit anyone. Look at his size.”

Despite his mother’s pleas, Leae was sentenced to about a year in a Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration facility and was forbidden from riding Metro buses between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. until he turns 21.

Leae, who was released from custody in January, is in trouble again, this time facing charges in adult court.

The Renton boy, now 16, is accused of the violent robbery of a stranger earlier this month at the Renton Transit Center. According to prosecutors, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound boy towered over the 36-year-old victim.

Leae has been charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree robbery. Two others, Leae’s brother Troy Leae, 20, and Francisco Rondon, 20, of Kent, were also charged with first-degree robbery.

The victim of the Renton attack told authorities that he saw Leae and the two other defendants “pick a fight” with another man at the transit center before they approached him on the night of May 5. The victim, who was waiting alone for a bus shortly after 11 p.m., told police that he asked the strangers “for a light” to show that he didn’t “mean any trouble,” charging documents said.

The victim said the youngest suspect — later identified as Solinuu Leae — got in his face and then “sucker punched” him in the head, according to charges. When the man tried to defend himself, he said, the two other suspects knocked him to the ground and kept attacking him, according to charges.

When the man pulled out his phone and tried to call for help, his attackers yanked his cellphone from his hand and destroyed it, charges said.

Witnesses told police that the beating continued after the man faded out of consciousness, charges said. Witnesses called 911 and directed police to the three suspects, who were down the block.

Solinuu Leae was holding the victim’s coat and sweatshirt when he was arrested, charges said.

The victim suffered a broken arm and a broken jaw, prosecutors said.

King County Deputy Prosecutor Julie Kline asked that Leae be held in lieu of $200,000 bail, Rondon in lieu of $250,000 and Troy Leae on $200,000.

On Jan. 23, 2010, Leae swore at Metro driver Katherine Batey because she wouldn’t let him out the back door of the bus after some of his friends were allowed to use the door. The boy struck the driver, causing her to lose consciousness and suffer facial injuries, prosecutors said.

During Leae’s sentencing for the attack, Batey said she had nightmares and didn’t leave her house very often. At the time, she said she doubted she could ever return to work as a bus driver because of the attack. However, a spokeswoman for Metro said Tuesday that Batey, 58, has returned to driving buses.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.

Jennifer Sullivan: jensullivan@seattletimes.com