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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The parents of a 5-year-old Minnesota boy who survived being thrown from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America decried the assailant's actions as "evil" while saying they forgive him at a hearing Monday where a judge handed down a 19-year prison sentence.
Emmanuel Aranda showed little emotion during his hearing. When Hennepin County District Judge Jeannice Reding asked whether Aranda wanted to say anything on his own behalf, the 24-year-old Minneapolis man responded with a simple, "No." Reding then sentenced him to the term he agreed to when he pleaded guilty last month to attempted premeditated first-degree murder in the April 12 attack.
Aranda told investigators he went to the mall "looking for someone to kill." According to the complaint, he had tried unsuccessfully to talk to women in the mall but their rejection "caused him to lash out and be aggressive." He said he had planned to kill an adult before choosing the child instead.
The boy, identified in court only as Landen, plunged almost 40 feet (12 meters) and needed multiple surgeries for head trauma and broken bones. No update on his recovery was provided in court Monday, though his parents described it as miraculous.
"Your act was evil and selfish, you chose to listen to the worst parts of yourself that day," the boy's father said in a statement read by prosecutor Cheri Ann Townsend. "You chose evil over good and chose to take your hate and hurt out on my precious boy. That is where your impact on us stops, you will take nothing more from us."
Both parents, whose statements were full of references to their Christian faith, said they forgave Aranda because they believe God expects them to.
"You chose to think about yourself that day, what you were feeling and wanted to do to someone else," Landen's mother said in a separate statement read by the prosecutor. "I'm sad you chose anger and hatred."
Aranda's attorney, Paul Sellers, did not raise a mental illness defense. Aranda did acknowledge in response to a question from the judge that he had been in mental health court previously and completed required treatment. They did not go into details.
Aranda's mother, Becky Aranda, and family friend Jessica Harris told reporters afterward that he had been in and out of mental health treatment while growing up in Chicago, with frequently changing diagnoses, including attention deficit disorder, depression, autism and schizophrenia. They said that as far as they know, he was homeless before the attack. They said his comprehension level is more like a 5-year-old child's than an adult's.
Becky Aranda said her son belongs in a mental hospital, not prison. She said she last saw him in November and had been rebuffed in her efforts to visit him in jail.
"We're trying to figure out what happened, what led him to do this," she said. "We need answers as much as everybody else."
Mary Moriarty, the chief public defender for Hennepin County, said afterward that her office must honor its duty of confidentiality to its clients. She indicated defense attorneys were following Emmanuel Aranda's wishes in resolving the case quickly.
"One of our jobs, one of our goals as public defenders is to build a trusting relationship with the client and to try to achieve what the client's goals are," she said.
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