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Lawyer says girl felt coerced by Slender Man to attack friend, charge should be dismissed

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WAUKESHA, Wisconsin — An attorney for one of two Wisconsin girls accused of repeatedly stabbing a classmate and leaving her for dead has argued that the charge against her should be dismissed because she believed a fictional horror character called Slender Man would kill her family if they didn't attack their friend — a belief he said amounted to coercion.

In a Waukesha County Circuit Court filing Thursday, Joseph Smith Jr. said dismissing the adult charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide would allow the state to refile a lesser charge in juvenile court. He wrote that coercion, and the girl's belief that she was defending her family, are mitigating factors that warrant reducing the charge to attempted second-degree intentional homicide.

All the girls were 12 when the attack happened last May in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha. The victim survived 19 stab wounds.

It was the third filing this week that followed up on arguments that attorneys for the girls and prosecutors made during a preliminary hearing earlier this month, when the defense presented evidence that both girls believed Slender Man was real. In a filing Tuesday, the Waukesha County District Attorney's Office asked the court to find probable cause that both girls committed attempted first-degree homicide and let the case proceed in adult court.

Under Wisconsin law, that charge automatically placed the case in adult court. Attorney Anthony Cotton, who represents the other girl, filed a separate brief Tuesday saying the girls should instead face attempted second-degree homicide charges, which normally would be a juvenile charge.

Prosecutors argued for keeping the case in adult court, saying that if the girls are ultimately convicted on lesser charges, state law would allow the court to sentence them as juveniles.

Juvenile convictions could send them to a secure facility until age 25. If convicted in adult court, each girl could be sentenced to up to 65 years in state prison.

The judge has said he intends to rule March 13.

The Associated Press isn't naming the defendants because their cases could end up in juvenile court, where proceedings are secret. The victim, Payton Leutner, who turned 13 earlier this month, has recovered and returned to school.

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