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EJJ hearing for Ortiz postponed

WORTHINGTON -- A hearing to determine whether 16-year-old Brandon Ortiz can be tried as an adult was extended Wednesday because defense attorney Dan Birkholz was just handed the case file that morning, he said.

He had not yet had a chance to discuss the details of the case with the teenager, he added.

"My client has read and understands the charges... He is willing to waive the speedy time requirements," Birkholz explained to Judge Timothy Connell. "These are very serious charges, and we are in no rush to justice or judgment here."

Ortiz was charged last week with first- and second-degree assault after allegedly stabbing a 24-year-old Worthington man during an altercation Aug. 6.

The victim suffered life-threatening injuries, receiving several wounds to his chest and abdomen.

During an interview with authorities, Ortiz allegedly admitted to stabbing the victim at least four times, he said, after the man hit him and then hit his sister.

Later, he led authorities to the location where he had ditched the pocketknife he used to commit the assault.

Wednesday, Ortiz's parents sat with him at the front of the courtroom listening intently to the discussion between Connell and Birkholz.

Connell said he had determined that probable cause existed to move forward with the case and stated the extended juvenile jurisdiction (EJJ) hearing needed to take place within 30 days of the arrest in accordance to state law unless a request was made to extend that time to 60 days.

"With the number of people involved and issues, I would ask for the 60 days," Birkholz stated. "I've explained to my client that because he's in custody right now, with an extension he'll probably remain in custody."

Ortiz was willing to remain in custody, Birkholz explained, and waive his rights to a speedy resolution. Although there was some petty crime in Ortiz's background, there are no serious assaults or drug-related crimes in his past, the attorney told Connell.

"We don't want to rush things," he added. "We're talking about a 16-year-old boy looking at the possibility of going to prison for a long time."

Connell told Birkholz a psychological study could be ordered for Ortiz to determine whether he was competent to testify in his own defense.

The attorney said he would discuss it with his client and let the judge know.

Birkholz entered a denial of all charges on behalf of his client for the time being.

Connell questioned Ortiz himself to be sure that the teenager understood the charges against him and the consequences of waiving his rights to a speedy trial.

Ortiz replied that he did understand.

The judge, Birkholz and Nobles County Assistant Attorney Kathy Kusz agreed the EJJ hearing could take a full day, so Connell asked that the attorneys get working on getting the procedure scheduled by mid-October.

He also took the time to speak to Ortiz's parents, asking if they had any questions he could answer and advising them to speak with their son's attorney to stay informed.

Normally a juvenile's court appearances and court documents are not open to the public, but in the state of Minnesota, a case for a juvenile who is 16 years old and older charged with a felony-level crime is public record.