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Back in March, I mentioned a horrific story out of the Maryland side of the DC area.  Two girls were arrested for tormenting an autistic classmate with very limited social skills over several months, even forcing him to walk on a partially-frozen pond and refusing to help him get out when he fell in.  Well, last week the bill came due for the younger of the two assailants.  After pleading guilty earlier this month, a 15-year-old girl was sentenced to a maximum of six years in a juvenile facility.

Before she was sentenced Thursday to a maximum of six years in a state juvenile detention center, the 15-year-old assailant of an autistic boy in Southern Maryland pleaded for leniency. The girl, who had used her cellphone to record the abuse, asked a St. Mary’s County judge if she could avoid jail and instead be placed in a community-based treatment program.

But Judge Michael Stamm sternly rejected the Chopticon High School student’s request, declaring that her actions and those of her accomplice — which included luring the autistic 16-year-old onto a frozen pond, where he fell in multiple times, and encouraging him to try to have sex with his family’s dog — were “horrific.” The 15-year-old, he said, posed a danger to the community.

Stamm was putting it extremely mildly.  The girl and her older friend, 17-year-old Lauren Bush, forced the boy to perform sex acts which they recorded on the younger girl's cell phone.  This ordeal came to light when the 15-year-old's mother found the videos and reported them to law enforcement.  The girl wrote an apology to the boy's family after pleading guilty to assault and displaying an obscene photograph of a child, and through her attorney admitted responsibility for her actions.  However, her attorney says that Bush was the more aggressive of the two, and that his client's main mistake was getting mixed up with "the wrong person at the wrong time."

County prosecutor John Pleisse says that his office has been investigating allegations that the two girls bullied another mentally and physically disabled classmate at Chopticon High School in Morganza for several years.  His sister said that the two girls even went as far as to put his name and address on a gay Web site.  This man's family declined to press charges; he is now 22 and living outside of Maryland.  Small wonder that Stamm figuratively laughed at the girl's claim that community treatment would be best for her, replying sarcastically, "Of course you do."

Bush is facing charges of assault, false imprisonment and solicitation of child porn in adult court.  I have to admit being mildly disappointed her 15-year-old friend wasn't facing adult charges as well.  If there is ever a circumstance that calls for a kid to be tried as an adult, it's this one.  Taking advantage of someone with mental and physical challenges is one thing that society simply cannot tolerate.  It takes a really depraved person to do something like this, and the message needs to be sent that those who commit crimes like this will be dealt with severely.

Reading this story, however, I suspect that prosecutors didn't want to put the boy and his family through the trauma of drawing this thing out longer than necessary.  Indeed, the boy really doesn't understand what those girls did to him due to his limited social skills, and even hopes to resume his friendship with them even though his parents have talked and talked with him about what happened.  If that's the case, ten to one Bush's attorney is leaning on her to plead guilty as well.  Something like this is not going to play well at all with a jury.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Torture and abuse of a person who is disabled. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, rebel ga

    These individuals needed  supervion and none was given.  Accountability is needed now amd prevemtion for the future.

  •  there is never a reason (6+ / 0-)

    ... appropriate to charge a child as an adult.

    Certainly not the nature of the crime.

    Children, juveniles, even young adults, have reduced judgemental capacities. For good reasons, most civilized nations honor this fact with respective provisions in criminal law.  Germany even treats young adult affenders (up to 21) according to juvenile law.

    The US doesn't.

    It doesnt change the fact, though. The US prefers revenge over justice.

    As for this case, when you look at the crime - this looks like a premier example of bad judgement. Normal taunting slowly escalated into more and more serious offenses, without the perpetratours even really realizing the criminal nature of their acts.

    So, shortly, you are completely wrong. Another /($%$ from the "hang the higher" faction.

    •  In a word: BULLSHIT (6+ / 0-)

      Bad judgment? Really?

      They never realized the criminal nature of their acts? Really?

      Bullshit.

      They both damn well knew what they were doing.  Christian Dem is aexactly correct - it was torture.  Taking advantage of someone they knew was disabled, taking that person out on the ice and torturing him for their own sadistic pleasure and then videotaping it.  And that amounts to nothing criminal? Bullshit.

      My wife is an educational therapist who can talk inside and out about adolescent brains.  Yes, they have lower impulse control, and their capacity for reasoned judgment is not the same as an adult.

      BUT - these incidents in no way shape or form reflect those lower capacities.  These were incidents that took place OVER TIME.  There were MULTIPLE incidents.  Those incidents themselves were not just about one quick decision, not just about one event or action that took place in a short period of time.  They then videotaped the whole thing.  

      These incidents showed evidence of planning, of forethought, and of sustained bad conduct.  Their actions were criminal and are in no way excused or mitigated by the natural state of adolescent brains.

      The judge was exactly correct in his decision.  There is no revenge here - this person is a danger to the community and is going to a juvenile detention center where she will be kept away from the public, but will also be able to get education and counseling she needs to rehabilitate herself.

      Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

      by absdoggy on Sun May 04, 2014 at 07:10:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  that caught my eye too (5+ / 0-)

      No one under 18 should be charged as and adult, imo. They aren't adults, and science shows their brains are vastly different-in fact they are different into one's 20s.

      I hope you don't think that what they did was typical teenager poor judgement gone awry. I am around teenagers quite a bit and do remember myself pretty well at 15. I think most could have/would have stopped once a certain threshold (sex acts, possible physical harm)  was reached. I imagine as that would start to happen the average kid would be jolted into a realization of the depravity of what they were doing and stop. They went much farther than I'd expect.

      But again,I agree that at 15 she had diminished capacity. This is why we have the juvenile justice system. Six years, or even a year, when you are a teenager feels like a lifetime compared to how it feels to us, anyway.

      •  These girls sound like sociopaths with sadistic (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SCFrog, nocynicism, IndieGuy, absdoggy

        streaks.  No amount of brain and social maturation will cure that.  If anything, sociopaths learn to cover their personality defect up better the older they get.

        •  sounds (0+ / 0-)

          There are legions of people who are criminal, and in fact in prison, who are Not true psychopaths, from what I've read. They go off in the wrong direction. That is why one other reason we try kids as kids. Many  people who do horrible things including cold blooded murder-which I am sure you agree is at least in this league- when they are young are not that way when they are over 30.

      •  this diminished capacity bit is nonsense. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IndieGuy

        Someone who's capable of this at 15 is quite likely capable of far worse at 18.  Funny how everyone was pillorying Romney for his bullying back in the day--but in this case where we have full on torture some people give a pass.

        •  you don't know teenagers (0+ / 0-)

          I didn't pillory Romney for that reason, I myself cut him some slack BUT I pilloried him for not making amends when he was older and should have realized how horrible his behavior was.

        •  and I am Certainly not giving these girls a pass (0+ / 0-)

          Hate "all or nothing" accusations.

          To a teenager, a few years in prison is forever. Those are some of the best years, most profound, in people's lives. She'll be locked up when people yearn to be the most free and autonomous. She'll be learning what mistakes she made, and will actually have a chance of treatment, instead of a decade in adult prison to become a hardened criminal.

          Science is fact based, not based on our emotions. Brain scans of teenagers do in fact show profound differences that also correlate with differences in how they behave/think in testing and in real life.

          Teenagers brains:

          http://www.thetimes.co.uk/...

      •  There's a huge difference between (0+ / 0-)

        someone who is 17 years and 11 months old, and someone who is 10.

        18 is just an arbitrary dividing line.

    •  Truer words were never spoken. (0+ / 0-)
      The US prefers revenge over justice.
      That's the way. Keep the little people at each others' throats.

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Sun May 04, 2014 at 07:46:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  most 13 year olds i've met have far greater (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IndieGuy, absdoggy

      capacity for good judgment and awareness of their actions than 90% of congress or the republican party.

      Just saying.

      You're giving an enormous amount of slack to pure, unencumbered sadism.  I was 15 once--I had a lot of 15 yar old friends.  I stilll know a lot of 15 year olds.  Never have I met one who would do 0.001% of what these people did.  Bullies included.

      As long as it's in the bounds of legality, I hope they throw the book at 'em.

    •  Never a reason? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IndieGuy

      So no matter WHAT someone classified by age as "not an adult" does, they should still only face juvenile sentencing?

      Arriving at a sentence for a crime is supposed to consider 4 main factors: to show society's disapproval of the crime; to allow for some form of rehabilitation to take place; to act as a deterrent to others who may consider committing this crime; and to ensure public safety.

      I would agree that too often sentences tend to be more about retribution that disapproval.

      I also think that we've forgotten about the public safety consideration in favor of the rights of the convicted.

      When heinous crimes like this are committed by juveniles nearing the juvenile/adult cutoff, it seems that the sentencing maximums aren't enough.

      If you want to keep them out of adult prisons, I'd be in complete agreement with you.  But I think they need to be incarcerated for a longer amount of time than the current juvenile maximums allow.

      Do you really think that this 15 yr old, who minimized her crime and asked for community service, is going to suddenly turn her life around on her own? There were allegations at trial that the two abused other students, including another challenged student.  The lack of empathy and morality that would be required to allow one to perform these acts is frightening.  The boy's life was at risk, and a deadly weapon was used.

      At some point, I truly believe that the focus needs to be shifted to helping the victims of crime and protecting the rest of society, including it's most vulnerable members.

      I do wish we could be better at rehabilitating those who can be helped.  With the passage of time, however, I have reached the conclusion that there are some people who are beyond rehabilitation.  Let us do all we can to reach those we can reach; but let us also make sure the for those we can't help, we focus on preventing them from continuing to victimize others.

      •  Just off the top of my head, (0+ / 0-)

        I can think of four reasons to try a minor as an adult:

        1) Rape.
        2) Murder.
        3) Arson.
        4) Terrorism.

        •  just off the top of my head (0+ / 0-)

          I can think of four clear reasons to try someone as a juvenile

          Rape
          Murder
          Arson
          Terrorism

          I can also name a few more

          Check forgery
          Mass Murder
          Tresspassing
          Genocide
          Petty theft
          Kidnapping

          essentially, for this it doesn't matter what they did. Their judgement doesn't magically improve based on the crime committed. Diminished capacity implies diminished guilt -> juvenile justice.

  •  Or the attorney for the second teen may choose (0+ / 0-)

    to take his chances with a jury.  As my father used to tell me, "It only takes one to hang a jury".  At the very least, the attorney may wait until he can see the jury pool to see if he would have a chance at a mistrial.  

  •  When society refuses to fund or value those (4+ / 0-)

    Who have special needs, we send the clear message that we do view them as 'lesser people'.   That message isn't hard for even kids to pick up on.  

    We so devalue their status that we have started to move back to old ideas.. many of the same groups that proclaim their die hard status as pro-lifers have no problem under their breath (and sometimes in the open) referring to those who will spend their life receiving social aid due to disability as near 'leaches'

    (Things that will make you sick: http://www.topix.com/... , and numerous Reddit level discussions of this matter)

    As we classify those who need help as 'less than' and 'subhuman' 'worthless' we send the clear message that with these things being true, treating them as less is just a logical conclusion.

    Until we go back and stop destroying the way we look at each other we help enable this kind of BS

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Sun May 04, 2014 at 07:11:24 AM PDT

  •  These bum chicks are merely abiding by our (0+ / 0-)

    national credo:

    FUCK THE DOOMED.
    And everyone who believes that and acts like that should be in jail, too.
    RESPECT

    "He went to Harvard, not Hogwarts." ~Wanda Sykes
    Teh Twitterz, I'z awn dem.
    Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly.

    by OleHippieChick on Sun May 04, 2014 at 07:38:00 AM PDT

  •  Sick, sick, sick. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    The only way true healing can occur, is if true contrition is shown.

    One of my major complaints with our adversarial "justice" system is that it doesn't make any provisions for this.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun May 04, 2014 at 07:44:35 AM PDT

  •  We Mustn't Confuse the Severity of a Crime (0+ / 0-)

    with a need for particular conclusions about the nature of the suspect.

    In this case the decision about whether to try the suspect as an adult has to depend on the mind of the accused, not on the injury to the victim.

    I fear this sentiment to try this suspect as an adult comes too close to the common sentiment that we must convict the first suspect apprehended largely because a crime was horrific, therefore we need the quick "closure" of verdict  and punishment.

    The accused may even be very dangerous sick people who need strict accountability and long term management, but that doesn't make them adults.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun May 04, 2014 at 09:31:29 AM PDT

  •  You want to charge a 15 yr old with adult charges? (0+ / 0-)

    What?

    http://jasonluthor.jelabeaux.com/

    by DAISHI on Sun May 04, 2014 at 03:43:28 PM PDT

    •  Only because that boy could have died (0+ / 0-)

      when he fell into the pond.  I think, though, that the prosecutor made the right call in opting not to do so when it was apparent he still didn't understand what happened to him.  Like I said, you shouldn't drag this out for him longer than necessary.  

      "Leave us alone!" -Mike Capuano

      by Christian Dem in NC on Sun May 04, 2014 at 03:46:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Echoes of the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo

    Dylan Nuno incident from 2012.

    For those who don't remember, Dylan Nuno was a bully whose victim, Jorge Saavedra, went out of his way to retreat from trouble. Nuno and his gang would have none of that; they followed Saavedra, hit him in the back of the head, then blocked off his avenues of escape. Saavedra fought back and stabbed Nuno, killing him.

    Saavedra was later arrested and faced second-degree murder charges despite retreating, despite being cornered, despite being outnumbered. The charges were dismissed, which Nuno's enablers/friends and family denounced as "unbelievable" and "heartbreaking."

    There was even a diary here whitewashing Dylan Nuno and his gang's actions. Didn't matter that he bullied someone. Didn't matter that Saavedra did everything to try to get away. Didn't matter that Saavedra was outnumbered. Hell no; the only thing that mattered was that the victim dared to fight back, which to that diarist and those who supported her meant Saavedra was worse than his bully.

    And now, we have this case. Two young women chose to subject an autistic boy to multiple forms of torture, including sexual abuse and potentially lethal hypothermia. The younger offender was only sentenced to up to six years in a juvenile facility, which was already infinitely more lenient than she deserves, and her entitled self thought she should be able to weasel her way out of that.

    But apparently to some, we shouldn't hold these offenders accountable because they're CHILDREN!!!1!

    Let me tell you something: If any other group demanded you give up your rights for their comfort, committed crimes and could automatically pass on the blame to a third party, required you to take care of their every want before your own basic needs, and had a horde of outside supporters at their beck and call to scrutinize and criticize your every move, you'd rightfully call them tyrants and demand they be punished simply for existing.

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