The 16-year-old who's accused of fatally stabbing a 17-year-old Freeport schoolmate fought back only with her fists after being bullied on social media and never wielded a knife, the defendant's lawyer said Wednesday.
Jasmine Copeland of Freeport pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Nassau County Court to manslaughter, gang assault, assault and a weapon charge following the November death of fellow Freeport High School student Abbigale Thomas.
The defendant's Manhattan attorney, Ikiesha Al-Shabazz, later said that Copeland maintained her innocence and had defended herself in a brawl that other girls started after they posted "horrible things about her" on Facebook and Instagram.StoryMom distraught over daughter's stabbing deathStoryFamilies of murder victims appeal for helpStoryCounselors at Freeport High after student stabbing death
"Girls often get into some social media beefs and that's what this was . . . Like most girls, if someone is antagonizing her, she is going to defend herself and these girls antagonized her relentlessly on Facebook," Al-Shabazz said.
The defense attorney said a group of at least nine girls came to her client's house -- she believes with knives -- before a fight broke out between them and a group including Copeland. She said her client -- who is in school and has a retail job -- wasn't the aggressor, never had a weapon, and that witnesses have said Copeland "didn't even fight the girl that died."
A judge kept the defendant's bail at $500,000 after prosecutor Michael Walsh said authorities weren't seeking any changes to it following her indictment. Court records show a grand jury also indicted a second person on gang assault and assault charges in the case, but she is referred to only as "Jane Doe" in the indictment.
The Nassau district attorney's office declined to comment on that defendant and on statements by Copeland's attorney. But a statement from acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said a grand jury found reason to indict Copeland for Thomas' death and those charges would be vigorously pursued.
Police have said Copeland stabbed Thomas in the lower back outside Copeland's home after an altercation with Thomas and two other girls, ages 16 and 9, escalated into a physical confrontation.
Police also charged Copeland with assault for allegedly stabbing the 16-year-old, whom they said was treated in a hospital for a chest wound and released.
Thomas' mother previously told Newsday that her daughter, who was the mother of twin boys who are toddlers, had been living in a foster home and had dreamed of becoming a nurse.
Copeland also faces separate robbery charges in Queens. A complaint alleges that when she was 15, Copeland held a sharp object to a livery car driver's back and took his wallet. Copeland's attorney said her client is innocent of those charges.