Crime

Nampa teen sentenced in brutal 2017 attack on another high school student

Jason Cooley Jr. was hospitalized with serious head injuries after he was attacked in a Nampa park in May of 2017.
Jason Cooley Jr. was hospitalized with serious head injuries after he was attacked in a Nampa park in May of 2017. Statesman file photo/Provided by Lisa Warren

Anthony Daniel Garza pleaded guilty last fall to felony aggravated battery for beating a 15-year-old boy so badly that he was hospitalized in intensive care for a week.

Garza, also 15 at the time of the mid-2017 attack, received a suspended sentence of 14 years in prison, including five fixed, in Canyon County Court on Thursday, according to court records.

Third District Judge Thomas Whitney opted to retain jurisdiction, ordering the teen to complete programming in a Department of Juvenile Correction facility before he decides whether to send Garza to prison to serve out his sentence or put him on probation.

Garza has already served 228 days, court records show.

Prosecutors announced in January 2018 that two 15-year-old boys were involved in the attack on Jason Cooley Jr., and they planned to try one of them — Garza — as an adult. The other boy’s name was never released because he was prosecuted in juvenile court, and those records are sealed.

Cooley had just finished his freshman year at Nampa High School when the attack happened in a city park, his mother told the Statesman. She said his assailants were students at another high school in Nampa.

Garza reached a Rule 11 plea agreement with prosecutors in late November. The maximum penalties for a conviction of felony aggravated battery are up to 15 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.

Cooley’s mother told the Statesman in 2017 about finding her son in the park after the beating.

“At first when I looked at him, I saw blood all over his face. I just thought he got his ass beat,” Lisa Warren said. “I put my hand on his hand and tried to cradle his head. My fingers just sunk into his head, and it was like jello or gelatin. I thought the top of his head was gone.”

She said that at that moment, she didn’t know whether her son was going to live.

“I didn’t know if he was going to be a vegetable,” she said. “Everything changed when I felt the top of his skull.”

Warren said doctors told her that his skull was not fractured, but he did suffer a brain bleed, and his nose was broken. She said investigators pulled a shoe print off her son’s head. The motive for the beating was a $30 debt, she said.

A GoFundMe account raised nearly $11,000 for Cooley’s medical expenses.

Katy Moeller has worked at The Idaho Statesman for 13 years. She’s a generalist, an investigative reporter and a feature writer who has been on the breaking news team for a decade. She was Idaho Press Club’s 2016 Print Reporter of the Year.

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