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Teen, 2 boys being charged in beating of homeless man

Story Highlights

• Children and 17-year-old face felony aggravated battery charges
Police believe teen was a ringleader in the alleged attack
• 10-year-old beat homeless man with piece of concrete, cops say
• Attack highlights increasing trend of U.S. young people attacking transients
By Ashley Fantz
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(CNN) -- A 17-year-old and two 10-year-old boys are being charged with aggravated battery for allegedly beating a homeless man in Florida.

Police say the teen egged the 10-year-old boys into joining the attack, which left John D'Amico bruised and bloody.

The incident highlights an upswing in violent crime against the homeless across the United States.

In 2006, there were 142 attacks and 20 murders, several involving teenagers seeking a vicious thrill, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless.

The 17-year-old will be tried as an adult and, if convicted, faces up to 15 years in jail, said Volusia County State Attorney John Tanner.

He added that the 10-year-olds also face aggravated battery charges but would, if convicted, receive less severe sentences because of their ages, at the judge's discretion.

Lawyers for the three boys would not comment for The Associated Press

"This teenager and these two children skated very close to actions that could have changed their lives. They could have killed this man," Tanner said.

Tuesday's incident, which took place in Daytona Beach, Florida, may make history, said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

"If we're talking about 10-year-olds, that means we've hit an all-time low," Stoops said. "The youngest person to have ever been arrested for a crime like this is 13." (Read CNN's exclusive story about homeless 'sport killings')

Daytona Police Sgt. Billy Walden said the teen and two boys were walking in their neighborhood around 9 p.m. when they saw 58-year-old D'Amico. They began throwing rocks at the homeless man.

Woods punched D'Amico, who then fell over a concrete wall. As he lay on the ground, one of the 10-year-olds -- whose names are not being released -- used parts of the concrete to bash D'Amico in the head, a police report shows. (D'Amico describes his attack)

D'Amico's eye was severely damaged in the attack. Woods and the two boys are being held without bond at a juvenile detention center in Daytona Beach, Walden said. (Watch cuffed 10-year-olds in court Video)

The Volusia County State Attorneys Office received paperwork on the case late Thursday, said spokeswoman Linda Pruitt.

The three boys made their first court appearance Wednesday wearing ankle shackles and handcuffs, and white jail jumpsuits too big for the two tiny 10-year-old frames. Judge Peter Marshall assigned them public defenders.

Attacks in Florida

Violence against the homeless occurred in cities and suburbs throughout the United States last year, but Florida led the pack with at least six such crimes in 2006. (See a map of 2006 attacks)

One of those cases has garnered international attention and is expected to go to trial this fall after a surveillance camera captured two teens beating a homeless man with bats in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on January 12, 2006.

Prosecutors say 17-year-old skateboarder Tom Daugherty, 18-year-old Brian Hooks, a popular hockey team captain, and a third unseen teen, Billy Ammons, a high school dropout, assaulted two more homeless men that night.

One of them was 45-year-old Norris Gaynor. A witness, Anthony Clarke, told police and CNN last year that he saw the three teens approach Gaynor as he slept on a park bench. Daugherty began striking Gaynor with a bat, Clarke said.

The Daytona Beach area was the scene of another high-profile attack in which four teenagers confessed to beating 53-year-old Michael Roberts to death in the suburb of Holly Hill in May 2005.

The teens -- one as young as 14 -- pummeled Roberts with sticks and logs, fracturing the homeless man's skull and breaking his ribs.

All four pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and are serving separate sentences ranging from 35 years in prison to 22 years. They were also sentenced to probation for life.

Florida lawmakers met with advocates Tuesday to work on a bill that would provide more protection for homeless people and provide local communities with funding to prevent homelessness.



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