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Judge lays down law for teen in slashing

Jada Jennings, a 16-year-old Bennett High School junior, wept for her mother Wednesday as a judge ordered the girl taken in handcuffs to begin a one- to three-year prison term for nearly killing a girl who was left scarred for life.

Jennings, who pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to first-degree assault, tearfully begged the judge to spare her a jail term, saying she already had purchased a dress and hoped to go to her upcoming junior prom.

That request prompted Erie County Judge Shirley Troutman to tell her, "You don't fully appreciate what you did." She said Jennings committed a "purposeful, malicious" attack that nearly killed her victim.

Troutman questioned why about two dozen of Jennings' high school friends had skipped school to be in court as she ordered her taken into custody at noon for the violent stabbing incident at about 9 p.m. March 20, 2006, on Lisbon Avenue.

The judge warned Jennings, of Jewett Parkway, that due to the order of protection she issued for her victim, Jennings will face an additional prison sentence if any of her friends retaliate against her victim or her family.

Prosecutor Jeffrey P. DiPalma said the attack was an outgrowth of interschool violence between teen girl gangs. He said Jennings, who has boasted on her MySpace Web page of being a member of the Central Park Crew, nine of her girlfriends and a man drove to her victim's house late on the night of the attack.

Jennings, the only one arrested, and the other girls lured her victim's sister out of the house, saying they were returning a pair of sneakers that had been loaned to Jennings. When they started beating the sister, the other girl came out, and Jennings repeatedly slashed and stabbed her, DiPalma said.

The victim's abdomen was pierced by Jennings' knife thrusts; one of her lungs was punctured; and she has been left with a permanent scar running from her left eye to her jawline, the prosecutor said.

The victim and her mother were in court Wednesday. The mother told the judge her daughter's injuries prevent her from playing basketball, which she was doing on Buffalo Public High School squads. She said the scar cannot be fixed by plastic surgery.

Jennings had been free on bail until Wednesday.

Jennings repeatedly told the judge she had "made a bad choice" in attacking her victim, but she claimed she "never meant to hurt her that way, and I regret everything I did."

Jennings also told the judge her victim's friends "harass me" at school, but she insisted she has matured and now regularly attends school.

The judge denied Jennings youthful offender status because "you maimed her for life."

She reminded the defendant that her victim "almost died" and now "every time she looks into the mirror she will see what you did to her."

As Jennings was being taken in handcuffs from the downtown courtroom filled with extra court security officers because of the youthful crowd, she repeatedly called out to her mother. Court officials politely stopped Jennings' mother from running after her.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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