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Suspects In Hadiya Pendleton Murder Plead Not Guilty

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Hadiya Pendleton (Supplied to CBS)

Hadiya Pendleton (Supplied to CBS)

CHICAGO (CBS) – The two men charged with murder in the shooting death of 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton pleaded innocent on Thursday.

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports both 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams pleaded not guilty to all charges during their arraignment at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building.

Ward is charged with 141 counts of first-degree murder, while Williams is charged with 17 counts. Depending on the evidence, there are many ways to charge someone with the same crime, CBS 2’s Chris Martinez reports.

Both defendants are being held without bond.

Michael Ward and Kenneth Williams, suspects in murder of Hadiya Pendleton

Michael Ward, left, and Kenneth Williams are charged in the death of Hadiya Pendleton. (Chicago Police Department)

Police and prosecutors have said Ward shot and killed Hadiya – and wounded two other people – when he fired several shots at a group of students seeking shelter from the rain under a canopy at a Kenwood neighborhood park in January. Williams allegedly was driving the getaway car, and provided the gun used in the shooting. Authorities said Ward and Williams mistook the group for rival gang members.

Pendleton’s family, represented at Thursday’s hearing, said they’re doing their best to honor the teen’s memory. That includes starting a foundation.

“We’re just trying to make good things happen, or good things come from something bad,” Hadiya’s father, Nate Pendleton, said after the hearing.

Prosecutors have said Ward and Williams were out for revenge, after a rival gang killed a friend of Ward’s. Williams also had been wounded by a rival gang member last summer.

“The offenders had it all wrong,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said after the suspects were charged last month. “They thought the group they shot into included members of a rival gang. Instead, it was a group of upstanding, determined kids like Hadiya who were repulsed by the gang lifestyle.”

Defense attorneys on the other side of the case promise a fight.

“We see this case going to trial at some point because he’s not going to plead guilty to something he didn’t do,” Matthew McQuaid said.

Ward and Williams were due back in court in early May.

Defense attorneys have alleged Ward and Williams were railroaded by police who were under heavy public and political pressure to make an arrest in Hadiya’s murder, which received national attention.

Hadiya, an honor student at King College Prep High School, had performed with the school band at President Obama’s inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C., about a week before the shooting.

First Lady Michelle Obama, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan attended Hadiya’s funeral.

While the suspects were in court, Hadiya’s mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, was at the White House with President Barack Obama, as he pressured Congress to act on a package of gun control legislation coming up for a vote in the Senate. She was among 20 other mothers who joined the president Thursday, after losing a child to gun violence.

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