VisionQuest juveniles have hearings on riot charges

May 20, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Seven of eight female juveniles facing felony riot charges were in Franklin County Court Friday for adjudication hearings on their roles in a May 6 incident at the VisionQuest Madalyn Program in which they fought with staff and threw rocks at responding ambulance crews.

Pennsylvania State Police and municipal police departments from Franklin, Cumberland and Adams counties responded to the disturbance at the facility on Rocky Spring Road near South Mountain, Pa., according to Pennsylvania State Police.

Six of the seven juveniles made admissions to lesser charges during hearings before Judge Carol Van Horn. The hearing for the seventh, a 13-year-old girl, was closed.

The eighth juvenile, alleged by police to be one of the instigators, had been transferred to a facility in Texas by a previous court order, Assistant District Attorney Bret Palmer said. The county probably will bring her back for a hearing at a later date, she said.


After the incident, juvenile petitions were filed against the girls, and most were transferred to a secure juvenile detention center, Palmer said. As a result of the hearings and the juveniles' admissions to misdemeanor and summary charges including simple assault and disorderly conduct, Van Horn ordered they be transferred to their home counties for further disposition of their cases.

Because the juveniles admitted to the charges, there was no court testimony by staff or police about events at VisionQuest.

"We're not allowed to comment," said one staff member as he left the courthouse.

Police said the disturbance began at 8:24 p.m. when one of the residents was restrained by staff and another resident intervened.

"One of my friends was getting restrained," testified one of the girls, who said she bit a staff member on the arm during a scuffle. She admitted to three counts of simple assault.

"He had his elbow in her neck ... I punched him in the face," the girl testified. She also testified she punched a female staff member in the face, but that the staff member had kicked her in the side and head.

Trooper Bradley Ford said the girl who originally was restrained got loose at one point and ran into a staff member, bowling him over and breaking his arm.

The affidavit of probable cause stated about 42 girls were involved in the altercation and six staff members were assaulted. Ford said girls struck some of the ambulance personnel, who were not injured, and rocks were thrown at the vehicles.

"No student left the facility with any kind of injury sustained in the riot," Ford said.

VisionQuest issued a statement on May 7 that seven juveniles were treated and released from a hospital, five for asthma-related symptoms, and two staff members were treated and released.

Under the Pennsylvania Crime Code, riot is defined as when three or more people engage in behavior constituting disorderly conduct.

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