MINNEAPOLIS — A Hennepin County judge on Monday, June 3, sentenced a man who threw a boy from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America to 19 years in prison.
Emmanuel Aranda, 24, in May pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted murder and said he knew that throwing five-year-old Landen over the railing nearly 40 feet to the ground could kill him. The boy survived the fall on April 12 and has been recovering from his injuries, according to a GoFundMe site posted by family friends.
Aranda waived his right to a trial last month and agreed to serve 19 years in prison as part of his plea deal.
Landen's parents did not appear in court on Monday, but a county prosecutor read statements they'd written, which said they wanted the toughest penalty for Aranda, but also forgave him and hoped he could find salvation through God.
"Your act was evil and selfish, you chose to listen to the worst parts of yourself that day," Landen's father said in a statement read by the prosecutor. "You chose evil over good and chose to take your hate and hurt on my precious boy."
"I want you to know I forgive you," Landen's mother said in the statement read aloud in court. "Not because what you did was okay but because God wants me to. I'm not letting you take any part of our family."
Aranda didn't comment or offer an apology when given the opportunity to speak in court. But his mother later told reporters that her son had a history of mental illness and that the act of violence was out of character. She said she appreciated that Landen's parents had forgiven her son.
"I'm glad that she has forgiven my son, which is like a burden that has been lifted off our shoulders," Becky Aranda told reporters. "Even though she doesn't agree with what my son did, I like the fact that she prayed for him and asked for forgiveness for him."
Landen suffered severe head trauma from the fall as well as multiple broken bones. Family members in a post to his GoFundMe page said the Woodbury boy experienced non-life-threatening complications from his injuries that required additional medical procedures to correct last month, but his recovery is ongoing.
"He is recovering, and his spirit is strong — but there is still a long road ahead," his family wrote. "We are thankful to Jesus for lifting us up and providing ongoing healing."
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $1 million to help Landen and his family.