CHICAGO — The two suspects in the high-profile fatal shooting of Hadiya Pendleton pleaded not guilty Thursday to dozens of counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and other charges.
Michael Ward, the alleged shooter, was indicted on 141 counts of first-degree murder alone, prompting his attorney to blast Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
“I want to ask (Alvarez): Why are you doing this?” said Jeff Granich, Ward’s lawyer. “It’s ridiculous and stupid. It’s an extremely cheap way of getting attention. It’s a waste of paper. It’s a stunt.”
The shooting of the 15-year-old has become a national symbol of Chicago’s scourge of gun violence.
The sophomore at King College Prep was fatally shot on Jan. 29 in Harsh Park a little more than a week after she performed with the school band near Washington during President Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities. The park is located about a mile north of the president’s Kenwood neighborhood home on the South Side. Two classmates were wounded.
“It’s a long road we gotta cross, so right now there’s really no feelings,” Hadiya’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton, told reporters after attending the brief court hearing. “While they’re doing their job, I gotta do what I can do on the outside — which is trying to do whatever I can to practice non-violence.”
Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, both clad in bright yellow jail jumpsuits, stood with their hands behind their backs during the arraignment at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
The two were indicted earlier this month, but it was revealed for the first time Thursday the specific counts they face. Ward faces 141 counts of first-degree murder and eight counts of attempted murder, while Williams, the alleged getaway driver, was charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Both were also charged with two counts of aggravated battery, 10 counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and one count of mob action.
Matt McQuaid, Williams’ attorney, said he had not seen defendants hit with so many criminal counts in his some 20 years practicing law.
As Pendleton exited the courtroom, his sister-in-law, Kimiko Pettis, patted his back. Pendleton said he was confident justice would be done on his daughter’s behalf.
“You’re going to feel some bit of anger, but right now everything is on them,” Pendleton said in reference to the attorneys.
Pendleton and his wife, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, are starting a foundation in their daughter’s name to educate, encourage non-violence and combat gun violence.
“We’re just trying to make good things happen from something bad,” he said.
Pendleton said his wife didn’t attend the arraignment because she and others affected by gun violence were invited to Washington for a speech by the president.
Family friend Armand Scott said Cowley-Pendleton and her son, Nathaniel Jr., 10, would also be attending the White House Easter egg hunt.