Crime

Brothers found guilty in Christmas theater melee in Bradenton

BRADENTON -- Fifteen-year-old twin brothers Thursday were found guilty of assault charges related to a Christmas night melee at a Bradenton movie theater.

The boys were found guilty of assault and battery for an attack on a U.S. Marine and his wife outside the Carmike Royal Palm 20 theaters off U.S. 301.

The Bradenton Herald is not naming the boys because of their age and because the trial took place in juvenile court.

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After announcing his decision, Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas said that he would research the backgrounds of each of the boys before he decides on a corrective course of action for the pair on March 16 and March 23.

The incident drew national attention because it was sparked by a universal pet peeve -- talkative and unruly people at the movies.

After listening to more than six hours of testimony from about a dozen witnesses, including both defendants, Nicholas found one of the boys guilty of two counts of assault and battery for punching Kalyn Freire, of Camp Pendleton, Calif., in the left jaw with a closed fist, knocking her unconscious outside the theater for several minutes, according to testimony.

The boy was defending a 14-year-old girl who had gotten into a verbal fight with Freire after the girl and her friends had been kicked out of the movie theater for being loud, several witnesses said.

Nicholas also ruled that the same boy also punched Freire’s husband, Federico Freire, a U.S. Marine.

The second boy was charged with one count of assault and battery for punching Federico Freire.

The Freires said in their testimony that they have spoken to an attorney regarding a possible lawsuit against the theater.

Nicholas rejected the urging of the boys’ two attorneys, Gene Lombardi and Andrew Crawford, who had hoped to prove that the boys had acted in self-defense and were in fear of the Marine and his wife.

“No question, no doubt,” Nicholas said, concerning the charges against the boys.

The boys’ mother, Yaprecia Richardson, said she felt the couple pursued the criminal charges only to bolster the possible lawsuit.

“I think they did all this for publicity,” Richardson said.

One of the theater’s auditoriums was so crowded on Christmas night for a showing of “Little Fockers” that the Freires, former Bradenton residents who were visiting relatives, had to sit three rows from the screen, closer than they wanted to, Kalyn Freire said.

The first two rows were occupied by several teenage girls who were noisy, Freire said.

There is disagreement as to what happened next, with the Freires claiming they politely asked the teens to be quiet and were rebuked, having to resort to having management remove seven or eight girls from the theater.

The teens, several of whom testified, said that although there was noise, the Marine and his wife were threatening and used vulgarity.

What everyone agrees on, however, is that Kalyn Freire and 14-year-old Brittnee Collins, of Palmetto, got into a verbal dispute when the Freires decided to leave the theater at the same time the teens were forced out.

Collins said Federico Freire threatened to hit her and also said, “I will slice your throat.”

The Freires say that they did nothing and Collins got in Kalyn Freire’s face and said, “Hit me! Hit me!”

Collins testified that Federico Freire struck her lip with his elbow.

She filed a criminal complaint with the sheriff’s office, but investigators did not pursue the case because they said there were inconsistencies in Collins’ statements.

The Freires testified that they didn’t touch the teens.

All also agree that the incident sparked about a half dozen boys, including the defendants in Thursday’s trial, to come to Collins’ aid. That led to a near riot with hundreds milling about and confronting sheriff’s deputies.

“It was chaos,” said Assistant State Attorney Mike Fabec.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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