Longform

Kick Stop

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It was around that time that he'd seen Brad cry, he says. That was rare. "Brad doesn't cry," Jerry says. But this time, Brad was saying, "People think I'm a monster." He'd been in prison for just five days at this point. There was this huge guy, a lifer, Korean, Jerry says; a guard told the Korean guy that Brad was a racist who killed a Vietnamese kid. So this huge Korean guy was going to kill Brad, Jerry says. "Now you've got an 18-year-old kid telling you, 'I may have to get a shiv or something to protect myself. Maybe I need to go after him first?' You're absolutely helpless. What do you do, as a parent? Do you break him out?"

Five years after Brad was sent away, Pam Mills started taking Prozac too, she says. The couple moved out of Broward a few years ago. They're in Palm Beach County now, in a pink stucco house in a gated community. They're both petite, both former gymnasts. Married for 39 years, they finish one another's sentences.

Brad was always a handful, they say. "He always had problems with authority, is how I look at it," Jerry says. "But we were always there, chasing," Pam says. "We tried to make him face the music."

The family was close, they say. They went to all of Brad's baseball games, even his practices, until Brad got shot. After that, he quit sports. But they still went camping and fishing together, and almost every night they had dinner together.

Pam and Jerry have been visiting Brad in prison for 15 years, at a half-dozen facilities around the state before he was put in South Bay in 2002. He calls them collect every night, they say; they won't go out in the evening until they hear he's safe. They say they've spent at least $100,000 on lawyers and investigators; their retirement savings are gone now.

Pam says that all her life she'd wanted to go whitewater rafting. She finally went after Brad was sent away, but she quit before the first rapids. She couldn't risk it. "I have to stay alive to fight for Brad," she says.

"If my son had done this, I'd be putting flowers on [Nguyen's] grave site every day. But he didn't kill that boy."

Maybe if Brad hadn't gone to trial first, or so quickly... Pam and Jerry have had plenty of time for second-guessing, too. Didn't each trial get easier after Brad's? Jerry wonders. Did the state stop caring as much? Was it the cost? Was it that public opinion was appeased, or people just forgot?

In subsequent trials, attorneys for three of the other accused would get their clients' statements to police suppressed. Judge Eade would rule that Detective Milford improperly used threats and promises to try to get confessions from the other teens. By 1995, when the last set of defendants were on trial, Milford wasn't called to testify. He'd been demoted that year for allegedly pushing a teenager's head against the wall after the youth insulted Milford's son. Milford, who was promoted this year to captain with the Coral Springs Police Department, declined to comment for this story.

Attorneys for later defendants also picked apart the medical examiner's testimony, forcing Dr. Wright to retreat from his theory that every blow contributed to a stunning effect that disoriented Nguyen. Since Nguyen was able to run from his assailants at one point during the fight, Wright said that the first few slaps and punches likely didn't stun him and contribute to his death. Wright also said that Nguyen may have had alcohol in his system at the time of the attack. That was new.

After Mills' trial, four men were prosecuted together in 1994. This time the jury was concerned about the impact of each individual blow on Nguyen. Still, the four were convicted. Jury foreman Michael Carroll later complained to the Sun-Sentinel that the defendants should not have been lumped together like co-conspirators. "We've got two kids that shouldn't be guilty of [second-degree murder], it should be manslaughter," he said. "It's very disturbing."

William Madalone, who had given a graphic confession to police, was sentenced by Judge Eade to life. Terry Jamerson, who admitted only to pushing Nguyen, got 22 years; he's been out since 2003. Chris Madalone, who pled guilty, got 16 years; he was released in 2000. And Chris Anderson, whose slap initiated the fight, got 13 years; he's been free since 1999.

The last two criminal defendants came before Eade in 1995. Derek Kozma's confession, in which he told police that he kicked Nguyen in the head four times, was thrown out; the jury acquitted him. A few months later, Kozma was charged with splitting the head of another teenager with a beer mug; he pled guilty to aggravated battery.

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Amy Guthrie
Contact: Amy Guthrie