Teen girls charged in brick attack held for trial

Posted: April 11, 2014

AT LESS than 5 feet tall, Zaria Estes could have been mistaken for a middle-school student in court yesterday. She seemed unsure of the meaning of the word "waive" - as in waiving one's right to a preliminary hearing.

But Estes, 15, who was arrested along with two of her friends last month, is the one accused of using a brick to attack a female Temple University student who was walking with her boyfriend on Norris Street near 17th, the District Attorney's Office said.

During the March 21 attack, the Temple student was battered with the brick numerous times, causing extensive damage to her face and mouth, authorities said.

All three defendants punched and kicked the woman and her boyfriend during the assault, Assistant District Attorney Paul Goldman said.

Estes, Kanesha Gainey, 15, and Najee Bilaal, 16, surrendered to police after news outlets showed surveillance video of them near the scene of the attack.

During yesterday's hearing, each of the teens waived her right to a preliminary hearing. Municipal Judge William Austin Meehan held each for trial on counts of aggravated assault, conspiracy, possession of an instrument of a crime, terroristic threats, simple assault and reckless endangerment.

Bilaal and Gainey have also been charged in connection with two other video-recorded incidents near Temple in which they allegedly punched and attempted to rob women, Goldman said.

Although the D.A.'s office has charged all three defendants as adults, their lawyers said they plan to ask a judge at a later hearing to send their clients' cases to Family Court, where they would be tried as juveniles.

Attorney Fortunato N. Perri Jr. said he waived the preliminary hearing for Bilaal because "it was clear from the commonwealth's evidence at this stage that there was sufficient evidence for the case to go to Common Pleas Court."

He said Bilaal has no criminal history.

Attorney Bill Davis, who represents Estes and stood in for Gainey's absent lawyer, said he waived his clients' right to a preliminary hearing to spare the victims the "hardship of having to testify."

Davis said of Estes: "Hopefully, by waiving the preliminary hearing, the court and the victims understand at this point Ms. Estes and her parents and her family are really trying to express remorse for the pain caused to the victims."

Gainey is jailed on $75,000 bail, while Estes and Bilaal are each being held on $100,000 bail.

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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