Details of attack on high school student unfold

Defense says teen didn't take part

On most mornings, Terence Reese awakens to pain in his jaw where it was broken more than six months ago. He can no longer fully close his mouth -- the result of two surgeries to repair the fracture. He's also lost 40 pounds and had to change high schools earlier this month.

 

But as he took the stand Monday in the Superior Court trial for Branndon Manson, one of five teens accused of causing his injuries, the now-17-year-old Reese said the effect on his family has been particularly difficult.

The oldest of four boys, Reese said his younger brothers are afraid to roughhouse with him because they don't want to hurt him further. Reese's 4-year-old brother still cries "they beat up TT," using his family nickname, when he remembers the wounds on his older sibling's face. Reese's mother, Taanja, is being treated for symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome stemming from the attack.

"It's hard to smile anymore with my teeth (the way they are)," Reese told the court.

Of the five arrested in the March 1 attack that left Reese lying bloody on the asphalt of Circular Drive, only the cases of Manson and his cousin Berten Blockett were moved from Richmond County Juvenile Court to Superior Court.

At the time, Judge Willie Saunders justified their transfer in part by citing the "very egregious nature of this offense and the community's interest in combating a rash of teen and gang-related violence."

He said that while there are grounds to believe all five participated in the beating, Manson and Blockett "readily admit to their involvement in this crime," whereas in the other cases the connection was not as clear.

The other three, Mark Daniel Musick, Ross Nipple and Joshua Plowright, have been tried in juvenile court.

Musick was given three years' probation, and Nipple will be incarcerated in a juvenile facility for two years. Plowright was cleared by Saunders, who cited conflicting evidence about whether he was present for the assault.

A date for Blockett's trial has yet to be set.

In her opening statement to the jury, Assistant District Attorney Natalie Spires described the events leading up to Reese's attack:

He had just finished walking a female friend home from Butler High School when he felt a pine cone hit him in the back. Then Blockett began trying to pick a fight. As Reese continued walking, he was punched in the face and fell to the ground. Punches and kicks followed.

His attackers are accused of claiming various gang affiliations. They told Reese that they were "locking down the block," vowing to assault the first person who came in their territory.

"His life will never be the same and all because he happened to be walking home from school on the wrong street," Spires said.

Manson's attorney, Jason Hasty, argued that while there's no denying his client was present for the attack, there is no evidence that Manson hit Reese.

"We admit that," he said. "That's not good, but the evidence will show Branndon did not participate in the attack."

Like Reese, Hasty said, Manson was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He also suggested that a recording of the police interview will show investigators intimidated the teen into admitting the crime.

The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. today.