O.C. Man Appears in Court, Denies Hate Crime in Slaying of Ex-Classmate Blaze Bernstein
A Newport Beach man charged in the stabbing death of his former high school classmate denied a sentencing enhancement allegation of a hate crime during a brief appearance Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court.
The allegation was added to the murder charge this month, with Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas saying prosecutors believe Samuel Woodward killed Blaze Bernstein, 19, because he was gay.
With the possible sentencing enhancement, Woodward, 21, could face life in prison without parole if convicted. He previously pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and is being held in Orange County Jail with bail set at $5 million.
Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Woodward was largely quiet during his court appearance Wednesday. The proceeding was scheduled as a preliminary hearing to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to move to trial, but that matter was rescheduled for Sept. 4 at the request of the attorneys.
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