Judge's ruling - Case against youth to remain in juvenile court

June 04, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

The case against a 16-year-old Baltimore youth involving the alleged kidnapping of an Oak Hill House staff member in March 2003 will remain in juvenile court, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley, sitting in juvenile court, said that although the charges are "more toward the adult system," the youth meets the requirements to have his case remain in the juvenile system. He said the boy, who was 15 at the time of the alleged offense, could benefit from educational programs offered through the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School outside Baltimore.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Steven Kessell said that the youth is charged with kidnapping, robbery and several related charges.

The boy's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ben Thompson, said the youth scores low in math and reading. He said the youth has an I.Q. slightly above mental retardation and is not in a position to benefit from the adult penal system.


Kessell argued that the youth ran away from two placements ordered for him in the juvenile system and was not serious about rehabilitation.

"Now that his feet are at the fire, he's saying 'Yes, I'll take advantage of those programs,'" Kessell said.

Beachley said he wasn't convinced that the youth did not take advantage of programs - including a substance-abuse program - offered through the juvenile system. He noted that three drug-related cases against the youth were dismissed in Baltimore City.

Washington County Sheriff's Department investigator Ryan Shifflet testified that on March 24, 2003, at 1:45 a.m., a staff member at Oak Hill House at 12806 Independence Road in Clear Spring was checking beds and noticed two juveniles were missing. He said a youth, whom he identified as the 16-year-old in court Wednesday, grabbed his legs from behind as two other youths fished through his pockets for car keys.

After a key to a van broke off in its ignition, there was another struggle and the youths again fished through the staff member's pockets and got the keys to his car, Shifflet testified. He said the youths placed the staff member in the trunk and proceeded on a 4 1/2-hour ride that ended in Baltimore.

Shifflet testified that when the youths arrived in Baltimore, they yelled to the staff member that his keys and wallet were on the car seat but he had to pay for gas to get home.

Before denying the petition to move his case to the adult system, Beachley referred to earlier testimony that the youth sold drugs after the escape. He said the boy's actions were not surprising considering the environment in which he grew up.

"He is a child that represents some disconcerting aspects of our society," he said.

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