Teen accused of murder pleads not guilty


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SALT LAKE CITY -- A teen accused of murder made his first appearance in adult court Monday afternoon. Antonie Hunter Farani pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery.

A judge recently ruled Farani will be tried as an adult for the shooting death of JoJo Brandstatt. The murder happened at a West Valley City golf course in February.

Because of his age, the 15-year-old cannot face the death penalty. However, he could go to prison for the rest of his life without the chance of parole.

If prosecutors seek life without parole, Farani may need a new attorney. His current attorney does not have the necessary certification to defend such a case. But at Monday's hearing, attorney Richard VanWagoner told the judge he would like to keep representing the teen. The issue will be addressed at a hearing next month.

VanWagoner would not talk about whether a plea deal is in the works. But he said the transition from juvenile detention to the Salt Lake County Jail has been a big change for the teen.

"I can't imagine anybody being pleased about being in 23 hours a day in a cell. He's in protective custody right now," VanWagoner said.

Two adults charged in the same crime also appeared in court Monday. The attorneys for Jeremiah Williamson and Spencer Cater brought up some issues that need to be resolved, one of which is a possible conflict of interest involving Williamson's attorney.

A fourth defendant in the case, Shardise Malaga, has been offered a plea deal.

The judge canceled the trial, which was scheduled for February, so some of the issues brought up in court Monday can be dealt with.

Farani, Williamson and Cater will be back in court Jan. 25.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com

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Sandra Yi

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