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Teen found delinquent of disorderly conduct

August 25, 2005|by Pepper Ballard

pepperb@herald-mail.com

A 17-year-old who alleged he was illegally arrested in February at Valley Mall based on his race was found delinquent Wednesday of disorderly conduct by a Washington County Circuit judge, who determined the boy was trying to get attention while yelling racial epithets at arresting deputies.

At the close of the Wednesday adjudicatory hearing, which is the juvenile equivalent of a trial, Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III, sitting in juvenile court, said that there was not enough evidence presented in the hearing to find the boy, who is black, delinquent of two counts of second-degree assault in connection with allegedly hitting the arresting deputies.

Addressing the youth, Wright said, "Your actions and words, most especially, are the type that incite other people in the community ... You intended for there to be a crowd."

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According to testimony Wednesday, when the youth, who was walking with a group in a mall parking lot Feb. 18, was ordered by a mall security guard to walk on the sidewalk, he yelled obscenities at the guard. The guard then told him to leave the premises, but instead the boy ran into the mall, the guard testified.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Ryan Shifflet, who was working overtime at the mall for security that night, was called to assist. He saw the boy and ordered him to stop, but the youth resisted. The boy, who had been stopped in a less-traveled hallway, was taken to the ground outside Shenk & Tittle after he backed away from the arrest, according to testimony.

At that time, the boy was "basically calling us (racial epithet) and saying that we were racist, basically causing a commotion," testified Investigator Kenneth Barnhart, who assisted in the arrest. He said a large crowd gathered around them.

The boy has been living in Washington, D.C., with his father since a July hearing in which he was ordered on indefinite supervised probation for possession of paraphernalia. The mall incident, which occurred before the paraphernalia incident, would not have been a violation of probation, Wright said. He asked the attorneys what the purpose was of trying him on the mall-related charges, especially if the state wasn't seeking a disposition more serious than probation.

The boy's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Stephen Musselman, and Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Michelle Flores then approached the bench, but nothing was announced until later in the hearing regarding his question. Flores, referring to testimony in which the mother called police stereotypical, later said she was concerned that the boy's father might have the same attitude, making treatment difficult.

After speaking with the boy's father, Wright said he felt the youth would be kept in control under his supervision. He ordered that the remainder of the youth's probation not be supervised by the Department of Juvenile Services. There were questions regarding whether Washington, D.C., juvenile services would be able to take on the boy's supervision.

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