Thursday, July 10, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Grandson Pleads Guilty In Shabazz Death -- Widow Of Malcom X Died From Burns In Fire


YONKERS, N.Y. - A grandson of Betty Shabazz pleaded guilty today to the juvenile equivalent of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree arson in the fire that killed his grandmother.

During the proceeding, the 12-year-old grandson of Malcolm X was the only one to take the stand. After pleading guilty, he was asked by prosecutors to detail what he had done.

"Start a fire," he replied before Family Court Judge Howard Spitz stopped him.

"I don't think we need to go into this," the judge said.

The maximum sentence is 18 months in detention, which could then be re-evaluated on a yearly basis until he turned 18.

The boy showed no emotion and sat with his hands clasped in front of him. Several other charges lodged against him were sealed and not revealed; the plea will satisfy all those charges.

"Justice was served," said prosecutor Barbara Kukowski.

The boy is the son of Qubilah Shabazz, who saw her father murdered in Harlem in 1965 and was accused in 1994 of plotting a revenge attack on Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. After a troubled stint with his mother in Texas, the boy was sent this year to live with his grandmother in Yonkers.

He is due back in court Tuesday to be sentenced.

His mother was in the courtroom for the hearing, and both she and her son were asked if they understood the charges and waived the right to trial by pleading.

The boy provided only one-word answers to the questions.

Defense attorney Percy Sutton, who also represented Malcolm X, said he had seen many sad things in his life "but this was the saddest."

The boy had been charged with the juvenile equivalents of attempted murder and attempted manslaughter, plus several lesser charges, before Betty Shabazz died from injuries suffered in the June 1 fire at her Yonkers apartment.

She died, despite a series of surgeries, on June 23.

From the start of the case, Sutton had claimed that the grandson was "not responsible" for the fire. He refused to discuss the possibility that he would settle the case to shield the boy from media attention.

Documents have been sealed, so eliminating the trial sharply cuts the public exposure of the case.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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