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Betty Shabazz’s troubled grandson could face murder charge

June 25, 1997

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) _ The 12-year-old grandson accused of setting the fire that killed Malcolm X’s widow could be ``enjoying the publicity,″ said prosecutors in arguing to keep the media out of court hearings.

Prosecutors said in court papers made public Tuesday that Malcolm Shabazz ``has a sense of superiority and entitlement″ and letting reporters cover his appearances in Family Court could hurt his rehabilitation.

The papers also disclosed that charges filed so far against the boy include the juvenile equivalents of attempted murder, attempted manslaughter, arson, assault and reckless endangerment.

Those charges were filed before his grandmother, Betty Shabazz, died Monday from the burns she suffered in the June 1 fire in her apartment.

But even if Malcolm were charged and convicted of homicide, he would spend no more than 18 months in custody under juvenile law. The sentence could be extended year by year to his 18th birthday.

There was no word Tuesday on any decision about upgrading the charges. The boy’s attorney, however, condemned the possibility.

``What is there that drives a prosecutor to take the last measure of pain from a family?″ Percy Sutton said Tuesday.

News organizations had petitioned to open the Family Court case. One newspaper’s attorney distributed the court papers in which prosecutors asserted that Malcolm would welcome being the center of attention at a trial.

``It is possible that he is enjoying the publicity that this case has received to date,″ the prosecutors wrote. ``Additional publicity might undermine the rehabilitative focus of the Family Court Act.″

Marilyn Slaatten, who heads the prosecutors’ office, refused to comment on the papers, saying her office considers them confidential.

Judge Howard Spitz said he would issue a decision on whether to allow the media into the courtroom on July 2.

Mrs. Shabazz, 61, carried on her husband’s civil rights causes after witnessing his murder in 1965. Malcolm had been sent to live with his grandmother and he reportedly wanted to be sent back to his mother, Qubilah, one of Mrs. Shabazz’s six daughters. Qubilah Shabazz lives in Texas.

Mrs. Shabazz’s funeral will be held on Sunday, said Terry Williams, a spokeswoman for the family.

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