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Originally published Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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At sentencing, 3 teens express remorse for killing "Tuba Man"

Three teens who pleaded guilty to the slaying of the Seattle street musician known as the "Tuba Man" were sentenced to juvenile detention this afternoon.

Seattle Times staff reporter

In an emotion-filled courtroom, Kelsey McMichael finally heard the words he'd been hoping to hear ever since his brother, Seattle's beloved "Tuba Man," died Nov. 3 from injuries he suffered in a street beating from three teenagers.

One of the three teens who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Ed McMichael's death unfolded a note he had written and read it as tears tumbled down his face. "I'd like to apologize," he said, looking at Kelsey McMichael, who came from Florida for Wednesday's sentencing hearing in King County Juvenile Court.

As the teen continued talking about how he planned to change and "move on as a productive citizen," friends and family members in the packed courtroom cried and passed around a box of tissues.

Kelsey McMichael said he was pleased by the teens' contrition. "Today we heard what we wanted to hear. Each one expressed remorse and regret for what happened, and they sounded sincere," he said.

Two teens were sentenced to a maximum of 72 weeks in juvenile detention, and a third received a maximum of 36 weeks. The state Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration will determine exactly how long each will serve in detention depending on his behavior.

The teens also will receive credit for the time they've already spent in detention, according to Juvenile Court Judge LeRoy McCullough. That means the maximum time they'll serve starting now will be just under a year for two teens, and three months for the third teen.

The teens who received the longer sentences also pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree robbery for attacking two North Seattle teens just before assaulting McMichael, 53, a Seattle fixture known for playing his tuba outside sporting events.

Kelsey McMichael said he was "completely satisfied" with the sentences issued by McCullough.

All three teens were 15 when they pummeled Ed McMichael near Seattle Center after midnight on Oct. 25.

McMichael was briefly hospitalized and then allowed to go home. He was found dead in his home Nov. 3. An autopsy determined he died from injuries suffered in the attack.

In announcing the teens' guilty pleas earlier this month, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said the law doesn't allow stiffer sentences for juveniles in such cases and authorities didn't have eyewitnesses that might have allowed them to seek charges in adult court and longer sentences. He called the sentences "inadequate" and "not enough punishment."

The Seattle Times is not naming the teenagers because their case was handled in juvenile court.

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All three sat erect and motionless Wednesday as they were separately sentenced. Several people spoke to the court before sentencing.

Gabrielle Pagano, a juvenile-probation counselor, said "mayhem" broke out the night of the attacks after a teen dance near Seattle Center ended and a "large number of kids were running around" the area. Pagano offered some praise for each of the teens and said none had a prior conviction.

A defense attorney for one of the teens called his client's actions that night "wholly uncharacteristic" and noted that he was dropped off at the dance by his mother and was later picked up by her.

The football coach of another teen told the young man it was a "blessing" he was tried in a juvenile court. "When you're away, I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to better yourself," the coach said.

A retired high-school teacher, Kelsey McMichael said the three teens were similar to Tuba Man in one regard. His brother suffered from low self-esteem when he was young.

"Listening to these three young men, I could see elements of that in them as well. What changed Ed was his music. People reached out to him because of it, and we saw a tremendous change in his self-image. These kids can change. The law gives them that chance."

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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