Judge Considers Bail for Suspect in Araujo Murder
[FREMONT, CA] - New details from the killing of Gwen Araujo emerged Tuesday during a bail motion for defendant Michael Magidson, one of four young men charged with killing the transgender Newark teenager.
Magidson, 22, was the first to punch Araujo during an Oct. 3 party at a Newark home and was seen with his hands around the victim's neck, said Connie Campbell, deputy district attorney. In addition, Magidson admitted to detectives that he tied a rope around Araujo's neck, she said.
Superior Court Judge Dennis McLaughlin agreed to set bail, the amount of which he said he would determine today after he can determine the net worth of Magidson's parents. They say they are willing to put up property to ensure their son's attendance at all future court hearings.
Magidson, of Fremont, along with Jose Merel, 23, of Newark, Jason Cazares, 22, of Fremont and Jaron Nabors, 19, of Newark, are charged with murder in the slaying of Araujo, 17. All four have pleaded innocent.
Araujo's body -- still bound with ropes -- was found Oct. 16 in a shallow grave east of Placerville in the El Dorado County wilderness.
Though the four defendants could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, the killing does not meet the "special circumstances" required to make it a capital case. Judges are required to consider bail motions in non-capital cases.
There is a substantial amount of evidence that shows Magidson was an active participant in Araujo's death, McLaughlin said at the conclusion of an almost three-hour hearing at the Fremont Hall of Justice. But the judge said there is no evidence the defendant is a threat to the community.
"There is no evidence that shows this defendant is likely to inflict great bodily injury on anybody else should he be released," the judge said.
Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, and other family members left the court visibly upset with the judge's ruling.
Michael Thorman, Magidson's attorney, said the judge acted properly.
"Michael is entitled to bail unless the prosecution can show he is a danger to the community," Thorman said.
While Campbell admitted she didn't have evidence Magidson might harm others, she said she believes he is a violent individual. She said he was involved in a fight on a jail bus.
"This defendant is clearly a violent individual," Campbell said. "I believe there is clear and convincing evidence that this defendant is a danger to the community."
As a condition of bail, Thorman suggested his client spend time awaiting trial in an alcohol rehabilitation facility in Berkeley.
McLaughlin said that would be a condition of any bail, as would an order to not communicate with any witnesses in the case.
The killing -- with eerie similarities to the Teena Brandon transgender murder portrayed in the movie "Boys Don't Cry" -- occurred as Newark Memorial High School students were rehearsing for November performances of "The Laramie Project," a play about a Wyoming city's reaction to the murder of a gay college student. The Araujo case drew national media attention and became a rallying point for gay and transgender rights groups.