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No Jail For California 11-Year-Old

Lawyers have cut a deal to spare an 11-year-old girl from serving time in jail for an incident in April in which she allegedly threw a rock at a boy during a water balloon fight, gashing his forehead.

Maribel Cuevas had been scheduled to go on trial Wednesday on a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

Cuevas was detained at the time of the incident, spending five days in Fresno's juvenile hall and a month under house arrest after police said she resisted arrest and scratched an officer's arm.

Wednesday, behind closed doors, it was agreed that Cuevas will participate in a mediation program in which she and the victim will sit together and talk about the fight. She will not have to enter a guilty plea.

Elijah Vang, the boy allegedly injured by Maribel and who has acknowledged throwing a water balloon at her, was expected to be a witness at her trial. The defense strategy was to include showing that Maribel's action was provoked, and that she had been subject to harassment on other occasions. "This has occurred more than once so Maribel's reaction may have not been unwarranted," said Lisa Bennett, a legal assistant for defense attorney Richard Beshwate Jr.

Maribel maintains she was playing on the sidewalk with her 6-year-old brother on April 29 when Elijah rode by on his bike with a half-dozen neighborhood boys, who splattered them with water balloons.

Cuevas allegedly threw a rock that police later described as "jagged" and measuring 5.5 inches by 3.75 inches and it hit Elijah on the head. While she ran to find Elijah's parents, a neighbor called 911.

For months, Cuevas' behavior and law enforcement's response to it has provoked public debate. Last week, her parents joined church leaders and the state chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network in a vigil. They say the felony charge in no way matches her childish crime.

Fresno's mayor and police chief maintain that Cuevas case was handled appropriately, and that assault with a deadly weapon is the proper charge for an act that might have had fatal consequences.

By Lisa Leff

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