A Lee County Judge ruled Friday that Daniel Marquez, who was 10 at the time of his arrest, threatened violence at his school when he sent a text message to a friend last year.
The ruling comes more than a year after the now 11-year-old Marquez was arrested after the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said he texted a friend a picture of a gun and referenced an upcoming event at their Cape Coral elementary school.
The story made international headlines when the sheriff’s office released the video of Marquez being walked in handcuffs into a patrol car.
Fox 4 does not normally identify juveniles charged with crimes; however, due to the public nature of the case and the fact that Marquez testified in his case, we are choosing to name him.
“Did you ever tell anybody you were gonna bring guns to water day?” Defense Attorney Alex Saiz asked Marquez on Friday.
“No,” Marquez answered.
Marquez and his parents have long maintained he was joking when he sent the picture.
The previous text messages in the conversation with his friend were about how Marquez had “scammed” a friend of his out of a large sum of money.
He claimed the picture of what was described as an AR style rifle was meant to show an expensive item he purchased, not as a threat.
“You purposefully chose the assault rifles, correct?” Prosecutor Scott Miller asked Marquez.
“Yes, because they’re expensive,” Marquez answered.
“You downloaded that from the internet?” Miller followed.
“Yes,” Marquez answered, “because they’re expensive.”
Since this is a juvenile case there was no jury. Instead, Judge Carolyn Swift made the decision. She found Marquez to be in Delinquency — the juvenile court equivalent to being found guilty.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances, the credibility of the witnesses, the court finds he was not transparent with the court,” Judge Swift said. “He was overly coached. I don’t find his testimony credible.”
The first witness called by prosecutors is the father of the boy Marquez was texting with last year. The messages were sent just days after the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas.
For the first time, prosecutors also revealed new evidence obtained from Marquez’s cell phone.
“There were extensive images all over his phone of all types of school shootings, school shooters,” Miller said.
The defense argued those images weren’t downloaded onto Marquez’s phone but were instead likely Google or YouTube search results.
The defense has already announced plans to appeal.
“I did not believe, if you look at the totality of the circumstances, that anyone could believe that Daniel made a threat to anybody,” attorney Saiz told Fox 4.
A disposition hearing to determine a punishment will be held August 3.