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Suspect accused of throwing boy from balcony at MOA pleads guilty to attempted murder

May 14, 2019 06:12 PM

The Minneapolis man accused of throwing a 5-year-old boy from a third-floor balcony at Mall of America last month has pleaded guilty to attempted premeditated first-degree murder.

Emmanuel Aranda, 24, entered his plea Tuesday morning in Hennepin County court, admitting he knew throwing a child over a third-floor balcony could kill him.

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"I think that you saw in there him accepting full responsibility for what happened," said Paul Sellers, a Hennepin County public defender. 

A family spokesperson has said the boy is now out of critical condition, and is alert and conscious. The family hopes he will be able to return home by June.

KSTP's Brett Hoffland reports Aranda agreed to a plea deal containing a sentence of 228 months (19 years).

As part of the deal, prosecutors agreed not to pursue an aggravated circumstances component to the charge that could have meant an additional year in prison for Aranda.

"I think it's a good result, and the family will then have a resolution to the case fairly quickly and they can focus where they are focused, which is the healing of their child," Senior Assistant County Attorney Cheri Townsend said.

Last week, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said prosecutors would seek the maximum sentence in the case.

But Tuesday, the senior assistant county attorney said the family of the boy "fully supports" the plea.

Hoffland also spoke with Aranda's mother, who said her son should not be in prison because of his mental health issues.

"We don't really know what's going on with him," Becky Aranda said. "He needs mental health, that's what he needs. He (doesn't) need to be in jail, he's really sick."

Hoffland reports that Aranda answered "yes" in court when the judge asked him whether he was thinking clearly. His attorney said it was "100% his choice" to plead guilty.

According to the criminal complaint, Aranda told authorities he "had formed a plan to kill someone at the Mall" the day before, and had come to the mall with the intent of carrying that plan out, but it did not "work out." He allegedly said he "planned to kill an adult, because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the victim instead."

On Monday, the family said it would not be commenting on Aranda's legal proceedings this week.

"As hearings begin this week, the family would like to inform media that they will not be providing commentary on any court proceedings," a statement read. "The child continues to heal and the family asks for continued prayers and privacy. In addition, the family has retained the communications firm Tunheim in order to help respond to media requests."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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