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Youths get probation after admitting their involvement in theft

July 21, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

Why would four boys, who come from good backgrounds, risk getting involved in stealing a woman's fanny pack from her Jeep, Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III, sitting in juvenile court, asked the youths who admitted to their involvement in the March crime Wednesday.

"I'd like to know why people do things," Wright said, seemingly frustrated, after questioning one of the boys - a 17-year-old who is registered for classes at Hagerstown Community College in the fall - who admitted the most culpability: tampering with a motor vehicle and misdemeanor theft.

The three other boys, two of whom are now 18, and another who is 15, admitted to conspiracy to commit theft.

The victim, after tracing purchases the boys made using credit cards taken from the fanny pack they stole from her Jeep Cherokee on March 17, obtained surveillance tapes, and found the 17-year-old boy at his workplace, said Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Michelle Flores.

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After getting one of the cashiers the boy encountered the night of the theft to identify him, the victim called police, and the 17-year-old subsequently confessed, Flores said.

The boys had gone to Wal-Mart, a Sheetz, a hotel and taken two trips to a Martin's grocery store, she said.

The 17-year-old boy told Wright that the crime wasn't planned, that they were acting along the lines of a small child who knocks on doors and runs.

"And once you got something that didn't belong to you?" Wright asked.

"Once we got to the hotel, we realized what we had done and canceled the hotel," the boy said.

Elisha Elliott, the attorney of one of the 18-year-old boys, who is planning to go to a West Virginia college in the fall on a scholarship, asked Wright to give her client the juvenile equivalent of probation before judgment, a ruling in adult court that doesn't count as a conviction.

Wright granted that request and ordered him on one year of probation. He placed the three other boys on indefinite supervised probation. Before his ruling for the college-bound 18-year-old, Wright asked the youth to explain why he did it.

The boy told him that he didn't think before he acted, but Wright said he wasn't satisfied with that answer. He said he wanted to know: "Why you risked all that had been proposed to you in this juvenile way."

The boy said he "got caught up in the moment."

The youth's father then stood up and told Wright that he didn't understand why his son "can't explain."

"After he realized what happened, he tried to fix things," the father told Wright. The father said he told his son to leave if he's ever in that situation again.

"I don't know why he even got involved," the father said.

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