Yang stabbing case: self-defense or planned attack?

WAUSAU – The defense and prosecution in the case of 15-year-old Dylan Yang painted different pictures Thursday of what happened on the night he is accused of stabbing a fellow teen to death on a Wausau street.

Defense attorney Jay Kronenwetter said that Yang did nothing more than defend himself and his friend against another boy who had attacked them with a BB gun. Assistant District Attorney Lesli Pluster argued that Yang planned a fight with 13-year-old Isaiah Powell and challenged Powell and his friends to come fight.

Yang is charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the Feb. 27 death of Isaiah Powell. He was charged in adult court on March 2 and was ordered Thursday to stand trial on that charge in the adult court system.

Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Jill Falstad found Thursday that there was probable cause to believe Yang had committed the felony of first-degree reckless homicide and ordered proceedings to continue.

For now, the case will stay in adult court, but Kronenwetter said he will continue to push to move the proceedings to the juvenile system. The next step will be either an arraignment or a reverse waiver hearing, during which the defense must prove certain criteria in order to move the case to juvenile court, his attorney said.

In adult court, Yang faces a maximum of 60 years in the Wisconsin State Prison System on the charge of first-degree reckless homicide. If he is in the juvenile system, the amount of time he would face is five years if he were to be found delinquent on that charge, legal experts told Daily Herald Media.

"He's a child," Kronenwetter said. "He's not an adult."

Yang is accused of stabbing Powell twice in the back in a fight that played out on Facebook and ended in front of Yang's home in the 900 block of Jefferson Street, according to court documents. The two wounds, measuring about 5 cm and 19 cm in depth, punctured Powell's lung, liver and a major vein near the heart, according to the criminal complaint.

"I think it's fairly evident when you stab an individual two separate times in the back, where all those important organs are located, that there is a risk of death or great bodily harm to that person," Pluster said.

Pluster said Yang told Powell's group of boys that real gangsters use knives and guns to fight and that he encouraged the other group of boys to come over. He told police he initially had the knife used in the stabbing with him on the porch, when he thought the other boys would be coming, she said.

"He was going to be ready and willing to use that knife initially and it was only when he thought they were not going to come that he put it back (in the kitchen, where he later retrieved it)," she said.

Wausau Police Lt. Todd Baeten testified Thursday that police learned of Facebook messages between the boys that included gang-related undertones. He said in response to a question from the prosecutor that Yang initially said he was not surprised Powell showed up at Yang's house. 

But defense attorney Kronenwetter said his client was on his own porch when he and his friends were confronted by a large group of kids who piled out of a vehicle. Police said previously, based on witness statements, that Powell fired a BB gun into the group of boys on the porch.

Police found the BB gun in two pieces at the scene.

"All my client did was protect himself eight (against) three when he was attacked on his own porch," Kronenwetter told reporters in brief comments after the hearing. 

Baeten testified that Yang said he saw Powell firing a gun in his direction, and Yang went back inside the house and retrieved the knife from the kitchen. When he went back outside, Yang's friend and Powell were wrestling in the street. 

Yang and his friends then ran back to the house, according to police.

Police said Nia Phillips, 19, drove Powell and other boys to the fight and then drove Powell to Aspirus Wausau Hospital, where he later died. Phillips has been charged with one felony count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor causing death, according to court documents.