Treating juveniles as adults: there are no winners

Just try to imagine the circumstances that lead a man to abandon his teenage son in a criminal courtroom and walk away, never to have contact with him again. Imagine the trauma already felt by a 15 year old boy, charged as an adult, told he’d have to walk around with a felony conviction and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and then turn to see the only person there to support him – his father – leave during a recess and never come back.

That’s what happened to one young teen in New London, CT, back in February. The Day has this absolutely heartbreaking story of the problems of juvenile sex offenders, the harsh laws that we have and the absolute lack of any viable treatment options for these teens (The Day has chosen to name the 15 year because he’s being tried as an adult; I disagree with their tact, so I’m not going to name him).

The boy was 14 and living in CT when he was accused of sexually assaulting a 5-year old cousin. Because Connecticut law provides no discretion in the dealing of these types of cases, his was automatically transferred to adult court, without any individualized determination that he was deserving of being treated like an adult. And because CT law provides for no mechanism for the transfer back to juvenile court other than the charity and goodwill of a prosecutor, his case remained in adult court.

The prosecutor in adult court offered him a sentence that didn’t involve jail time, but that would give him a lifelong felony conviction, probation and lifetime sexual offender registration. For something he did at 14.

I suppose this can be seen as charitable, because under Connecticut law it is actually possible for a 14 year old to get a mandatory-minimum 10 year jail sentence, if convicted of sexual assault in the first degree.

“[The boy] wanted a trial,” [his father] said. “The way Pete Catania [the defense attorney] had explained it was, you’re going to get a B felony and sex offender registry. That would mean he couldn’t become a veterinarian and his life would be ruined.”

And for the rare case where a prosecutor might even consent to sending the child to a treatment facility instead of jail, there are no options:

Ferryman, the New London prosecutor, said sexual assault cases involving juveniles often are resolved with a suspended prison sentence and placement at an out-of-state facility for children with problem sexual behaviors, such as the Stetson School in Barre, Mass.

But [the boy] was living in Ohio, and in Connecticut, DCF Commissioner Joette Katz had restricted the number of children placed in out-of-state care. Until October 2012, there was no in-state option for children needing treatment for problem sexual behavior.

In October, with funding from DCF, the Boys & Girls Village, a Milford facility for children with behavioral problems, opened a 12-bed unit for boys with problem sexual behavior. All of the beds are full, a school official said. Most of the children are in their early to mid-teens and are able to attend an on-site day school. Older children […] usually are sent to classes off campus, to clinical educational settings or to public schools.

A suspended prison sentence. 12 bed unit. Mid-teens. School. These are children we’re talking about and yet we condone a system that punishes them so severely at so young an age that every opportunity they have at reforming and rejoining society is forever extinguished.

What does this teach our kids? What does this say about us? Is there really no second act in American society? That we care more about what a person does and how best to punish them than understand why and help them?

Would you hire a sex offender? Would you care that he was 14 when he committed his crime? Who’s going to take care of these troubled children? What happens when they grow up, disenfranchised and bitter and angry and isolated and rejected? What happens when they realize that the only way to survive in a society that has failed them is to commit more crimes? Who will we blame then?

Because right now? When we treat 14 year olds as if they were fully-developed adults and expose them to the irrevocable horrors of the criminal justice system? When we abandon them in court and leave them to the mercy of a system unwilling and unable to appropriately care for them? Right now we have only ourselves to blame.

14 thoughts on “Treating juveniles as adults: there are no winners

  1. Blackstone's Defender

    Cases like this demonstrate the complete and utter failure of retributive theory as a foundation for punishment. Consider this comment from an Ohio resident after she experienced the revelation that sex offenders lived in her neighborhood:

    “People think this isn’t a big deal, but it is a big deal. Registered sex offenders will do it again, and maybe next time they’ll kill someone[.]”

    The Ohio resident’s assertion is empirically false, of course. Sex offenders have some of the lowest reoffense rates among all offenders generally. But that doesn’t stop her concern trolling from coloring her perception of how dangerous they actually are. And how does she justify it? “when you become a mom, things totally change. You look at the world so different.” Apparently, that includes ignoring statistics to assuage one’s imagined sense of security.

    This perpetual moral alarm provides fuel for tragedies like the 15-year old boy you mentioned. I cannot imagine sentencing a young teen to a 10-year man/min. If he survives the psychological flensing he’ll endure while incarcerated, he’ll emerge an empty shell of whatever human being he used to be, and burdened by so many civil disabilities that his best chance at a roof over his head and 3 square meals will be to reoffend and head back to prison. And yet we continue to tell ourselves that we’re protecting the community with these draconian policies. Retributivism at its worst.

      1. Jason

        CT needs a CASA program for Minors (Court Appointed Special Advocates) that the Judges actually listen to in court. Second they need the Juvenile Court Judge privy over bringing cases dealing with minors back to their court depending on the circumstances.

    1. Jason

      What happens when the father does everything he can, and the justice system and the mother hands over custody to the father and puts them in this situation where there is no more support and he no longer can deal with the situation by himself. The mother turns witness for the State and The Court refuses to listen to his request for help, his 3 attorneys all refuse to file motions, and the father had to close all his retirement and educational savings accounts to pay for the legal defense and did not have the money to pay for the inpatient care that he thought the child needed and deserved. Then the father comes up for deployment and the mother refuses to take custody, the Court refuses to order her to take custody, refuses to place the teen into custody and tells the father he should walk away from his deployment with the Air Force (He is a Critical Care Nurse deploying with the Army to save lives) because he is a father first. If all fathers walked away from their deployments we could not fight any wars! We have a duty to uphold our Oaths so others can uphold theirs. When the Justice system favors punishment over looking at the situation and looking at all the facts that is not justice it is prejudice and that judge should step away from that case.

  2. Andy

    Just as bad to me is a couple of teenagers getting labeled as sex offenders for having consensual sex with each other before 17 or 18. Doesn’t matter to the law that there was no force, no pregnancy, and no disease. Those kids’ lives are ruined before they got started, *and they didn’t even hurt anyone!* 150 years ago, a 14 year old girl was likely as not to be married off and having children with a 20=something man. Now she’s a sex offender for doing something that I consider far less destructive to her than drugs and/or alcohol.

    I’m sure some may disagree with me, but, I really don’t like statutory rape. To me rape means someone was forced. Child molestation means someone was *way too young* to be even thinking about that. Putting someone in jail for consensual actions is just stupid, let alone ruining their life by being a ‘sex offender’ the rest of their lives.

  3. Jason

    There was a lot of info that was left out in the article written by Karen FLorin: 1) That the father was deployed in Afghanistan from Feb 2011 to Aug 2011when all of this occurred. 2) The child’s mother, step-father and the father of the boy threated force if the accused did not admit to the crime the day it supposedly happened, according to the accused. unknown to the father of the accused. 3) The father of the accused told the mother (his ex-wife) he needed help finding a lawyer since he was deployed in Afghanistan. Also that the mother and Step-father should get a lawyer to protect themselves, the step-father should inform his command so they can provide him with guidance and support. The ex-husband/ father of the accused said do not talk to the police until you have a lawyer. 4) The ex-wife/mother talked to the police, did not find a lawyer, became a witness for the state against her son, was refusing to help pay for a lawyer until the ex-husband said according to the child custody agreement you had full responsibility of all expenses while the accused was in your care because you failed to pay child support and medical support and this happened while you were taking care of him. 5) The father agreed to pay half of the legal fees to help his son, the mother agreed to pay half because she said she did not have the money to pay for a lawyer because of all of their bills. even though they just bought a new $35K truck. The father ended up paying all the lawyer fees up front and the mother was making $100 payments twice a month for her half. more to continue on another post

  4. Jason

    6) The mother of the accused never let the father know that their son was being charged with a crime when she knew out the circumstances in May 2011 & Jan 2011 . The mother sent the child to go live with the step-mother in Jun 2011 who had a 3 & 5 year old daughter while the father was deployed saving the lives of American Military Members as a Critical Care Air Transport Nurse. 7) At the arraignment Nov 2011 the father & son found out from the police report presented to them by the prosecutor that the mother was one of the primary witnesses 8) The Father worked to get a plan together for his son: A) get a lawyer B) get son Counseling C) Get son involved in Church and Youth Group D) Starting doing Community Service E) Get him involved in Band F) work towards figuring out what the plan for College is going to be. 9) In June 2012 the Father and Grandfather went to talk with the Juvenile judge and prosecutor. After hearing all that was going on (The circumstances). That the father wanted help for his son (Inpatient therapy in Ohio at Xenia one of the best rehab institutions in Ohio which was recommended by his wife’s manager where she volenteers who is the Director of the CASA/GAL (Court Appointed Special Advocate/ Guardian Ad Litem) program for Greene County in Ohio and their counselor for his son, a parole officer assigned to help over see his son, to get his son case transfered back to juvenile court and for Ohio to be the place where his son received help so he could participate in his care. The Juvenile Court Judge and Prosecutor both agreed and stated that they would push for all of this back in June 2012. The 2nd lawyer was relieved from the case after the court relalized the lawyer was not relaying information to and from the court and the father and a third lawyer was hired that day to represent the accused.

    More to continue on another post

  5. Jason

    10) The accused wanted to have the case sent back to juvenile court or have a trial which is his right under the U.S. Constitution. He wanted to let the court and people know about the abuse he has been suffering from over the course of his life while living at his mother’s house that his father has reported to Child Protective Services for 13 years, his Attorneys who he asked to report it to the courts, Connecticut Child Protective Services and The Groton Naval Base. Nothing was done as far as they have heard. The lawyers stated that the abuse allegations were of no concern to the adult court, the alleged forced confession by threat of force by the mother, step-father and the accusers father was not a concern either, the adult court did not have any concern that the teen has a long history of ADHD, OD, RAD and was showing signs of PTSD when he came to Ohio. 11) The father was in told by the attorney in Dec 2012 if you do not accept the plea and push for a trial the judge will appoint a GAL in January, then take your parental rights away and force the teen to take the plea anyways later. 12) The father told the attorney in Dec 2012 he had orders for deployment to Afghanistan and he needed to stop having the court drag this out. We needed to either have his teen son get help and send the case to juvenile court or have a trial. If that is not going to happen then the Adult court needs to take custody of him because the father has no one to take care of him because the teen was out of control at home and the teen’s mother & step-father were refusing to take custody during the father’s deployment because she was afraid for her 14 year old daughter and the step-mother could not watch the teen with her 5 and 7 year old daughter by herself while the father was getting ready to deploy with the Army to save lives of our military members. 13) In court the Judge told the father to walk away from his commitment to the U.S. Air Force deployment. (In other words commit treason against the government, because he had a duty to his son because his ex-wife could not do her duty to watch her son while the father was deployed) because I cannot make her take custody of your son because the Navy won’t let me since they live on Naval Billeting. At one point after the judge was done yelling at the father she ordered the officer to take the teen and call Department of Child services. The father thought court was over and left, he could not stand to see his ex-wife, the step-father and the accusers in the court room smiling at him after the Judge just belittle him implying he was a poor father.

  6. Jason

    Dear Editor, with regard to Ms. Florin, your court reporter:
    > Ms. Florin, it appears you have more than a passing relationship with
    > Judge Handy
    > there in New London, the judge in my nephew’s criminal trial. All those
    > committees you serve on with her make it appear more than a little that
    > you would find it difficult to analyze her actions in an impartial
    > manner. It tainted, in my opinion, your coverage of this case.
    > You should have told me you are so connected to Judge Handy *before* you
    > interviewed me. Now it begins to make sense that you would distort the
    > facts to make it look like my brother is an ogre and your friend the
    > judge is a sweetheart. Certainly she gets the sweetheart deal from your
    > reporting. The facts were distorted such that you may well have defamed
    > Captain Straw, you and your newspaper both.
    > Captain Straw, a bona fide war hero who has saved the lives of our
    > service members, Afghani civilians, and even POWs, did NOT abandon his
    > son in the courtroom there in New London. If my brother says that
    > nobody told him what was going on and that everyone left the room, that
    > is what happened. If he says he waited for a while, then left because
    > he was standing in an empty courtroom, then that is what happened. If
    > he says the record did not reflect what happened in the courtroom, then
    > that is how it was.
    > The clerk of court told me that the audio recording of the proceedings
    > would not be released. Why not? Something to hide? It sure seems like
    > it. Remember, I worked with all 400+ trial courts in Indiana at our
    > Supreme Court, and 400+ court reporters. They reported their data to me
    > for the annual report of the judicial branch.
    > Your behavior is highly unusual as a journalist covering the courts.
    > It is YOU who should be demanding that the audio version of the
    > proceedings be released. You who should be asking why there has not
    > been a trial in a year and a half. You should ask why the judge would
    > be allowed to attack my brother in open court after sneaking everyone
    > into the courtroom after she knew Captain Straw was gone.
    > I am still astounded that you don’t explain that it was Captain Straw’s
    > ex-wife who was in charge when the abuse my nephew received happened,
    > and this woman is now testifying against her own son.
    > Captain Straw’s ex-wife had custody of my nephew when the alleged acts
    > happened. (yes,
    > it is still only alleged, because there has been no trial since
    > 2011!!!). She had custody, but refuses to pay the $30,000 in legal fees
    > Captain Straw has incurred fighting for his son.
    > She sits back as a witness against her son, while Captain Straw fights
    > for him against
    > Connecticut attorneys (defense counsel, no less!!!) who aren’t worth the
    > paper their degrees were written on. Attorneys who clearly wanted to
    > accept the judge’s plea agreement when their client was vehemently
    > saying NO and asking for the right to a fair trial.
    > He has still not had one.
    > You don’t explain that the ex-wife refuses to accept my nephew because
    > she has a 14-year-old sister of my nephew there, but somehow my two
    > nieces (3 and 5) at Captain Straw’s house are not an issue. This should
    > have been thoroughly explained in your article, because that alone was
    > enough to negate the arraignment agreement.
    > You don’t mention that when the alleged offense happened, Captain
    > Straw’s wife in Ohio took custody of my nephew because Captain Straw was
    > still serving overseas.
    > Captain Straw’s ex-wife knew there were charges
    > pending, but dumped my nephew on my brother and his wife with this
    > matter. Captain Straw came home from Afghanistan to this. He was
    > looking forward to seeing his son and returning home to family, but was
    > met with the New London legal corruption pit nightmare.
    > New London, where I understand police recruits are rejected if they are
    > too intelligent.Jordan v. New London (2000)On August 23, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided in Jordan v. New London that “prevent[ing] frequent job turnover caused by hiring overqualified applicants” were legal grounds for disqualifying an applicant seeking a job with the New London Police.[15] The plaintiff, Robert Jordan, took the Wonderlic Personnel Test as part of the city’s application process; his score on that test was above the range required by the police department to legally narrow down the list of who qualify to take the next step in the application process. According to the city, Jordan was too smart to join the police, since in their experience, his intelligence correlated with a increased risk of job dissatisfaction, which in turn led to increased costs in hiring and training.
    > Captain Straw’s ex-wife is testifying against her son, but you did not
    > examine her background even when Captain Straw provided you with ample
    > evidence, including the photo of her with her hands on the crotch of a
    > young child. She posted it on FB of all places.
    > Captain Straw traveled to CT numerous times to hearings, even though his
    > ex-wife should have been responsible for my nephew because the acts
    > happened when she had full custody of him. Captain Straw agreed to
    > custody of his son in court, under oath, based on an arrangement in the
    > arraignment that he can no longer abide by due to his upcoming planned
    > deployment for the 3rd time to Afghanistan.
    > Captain Straw’s command pulled him from deployment because of this court
    > and this case. I made this very clear to you in one of my emails. I
    > wrote about how many people will die because he is not available for
    > deployment. He supervises critical care nurses in a hospital, and he is
    > highly
    > competent.
    > If there were not the serious jerking around of the judge, the
    > prosecutor, and the 3 worthless attorneys Captain Straw had to fire,
    > there would have been a trial by now. There would have been no conflict
    > between custody and court duties and his commitment to serving the
    > country and saving American lives.
    > As a journalist, you have certain discretion in how you write stories,
    > but you should not have a discretion to ignore the facts in a case. You
    > have ignored them, and distorted the ones you retained.
    > The people who hear about this are shocked not at my brother or even the
    > allegations, but YOU and the judge. The journalism professionals I know
    > believe in integrity and minimizing conflicts of interest, real or
    > apparent. They hold me as a lawyer and politician to that standard, and
    > they hold themselves to it.
    > I don’t consider you a friend to my family whatsoever. Not even neutral
    > towards us, but aggressively hostile.
    > It is unfortunate that you chose to let your angle slip into a slant.


  7. Jason

    Fire Brigade Committee

    Subcommittee Members

    •Hon. David P. Gold, Co-chair
    Presiding Judge, Part A
    Hartford Judicial District
    •Michael Kokoszka, Esq, Co-chair
    Chief Clerk, Middlesex Judicial District
    •Hon. Patrick L. Carroll III
    Deputy Chief Court Administrator
    •Erin Cox
    Investigative and general news reporter
    WTNH Television, News Channel 8
    •Karen Florin
    Staff writer, The Day
    •Hon. Susan B. Handy
    Assistant Administrative Judge
    Presiding Judge Criminal
    New London Judicial District
    •Hon. Barbara Bailey Jongbloed
    New London Judicial District

    Event Subcommitee

    Subcommittee Members

    •Karen Florin, Co-chair
    Staff Writer, The Day of New London
    •Hon. Susan B. Handy, Co-chair
    Presiding Judge, Criminal Division
    Middlesex Judicial District
    •Stanley A. Twardy Jr., Co-chair
    Day Pitney

    •G. Claude Albert
    Managing Editor, retired from The Hartford Courant
    •Paul Giguere
    President & CEO, Connecticut Network
    •Eric Parker
    Morning News Anchor; Reporter
    WFSB, Channel 3

    Senior Associate Justice David M. Borden today announced the composition of the newly formed Judicial-Media Committee and “Fire Brigade,” both of which are outgrowths of the Public Access Task Force that he appointed this year. “Establishing the Judicial-Media Committee and the Fire Brigade was a unanimous recommendation from the task force,” Justice Borden said. “We have put together a distinguished group, and I am pleased that all of these outstanding individuals have agreed to serve. I look forward to seeing the results of their work.”
    The Judicial-Media Committee will be co-chaired by Appellate Court Judge Douglas S. Lavine and G. Claude Albert, managing editor of The Hartford Courant. The committee’s mission is “to foster and improve better understanding and relationships between the judicial branch of government and the media, both print and electronic.”
    Other members of the committee are: Scott F. Brede, editor-in-chief, The Connecticut Law Tribune; Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Clifford, chief administrative judge for criminal matters; Superior Court Judge Nina F. Elgo; Superior Court Judge Robert L. Holzberg; Attorney Charles L. Howard of Shipman & Goodwin; Ken Margolfo, assignment manager, Fox 61, WTIC-TV; Morgan McGinley, editorial page editor, The Day of New London; Dana Neves, news director, WFSB-TV, Channel 3; Chris Powell, managing editor, Journal Inquirer; Superior Court Judge Barbara M. Quinn, chief administrative judge for juvenile matters; Patrick Sanders, Connecticut news editor, Associated Press; Superior Court Judge Michael E. Shay; Superior Court Judge Barry K. Stevens; Attorney Stanley A. Twardy, Jr., Day, Berry & Howard; and Adriana Venegas, victim advocate with the Office of Victim Services.
    The committee’s first meeting will be in January or February.
    The Fire Brigade, which also will be operational early next year, is a response team that will advise journalists, judges, and other court personnel when disputes arise regarding access to court documents and proceedings. Its members are: Superior Court Judge Patrick L. Carroll III; Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Clifford; Heather Collins, court reporter, Journal Inquirer; Erin Cox, investigative and general news reporter, WTNH Television, News Channel 8; Karen Florin, staff writer, The Day; Superior Court Judge David P. Gold; Superior Court Judge Susan B. Handy; Superior Court Judge Barbara B. Jongbloed; Zach Lowe, staff writer, The Stamford Advocate; and Lynne Tuohy, legal affairs reporter, The Hartford Courant.

  8. Jason

    Very few practicing lawyers are willing or able to expose Bad Judges publicly, for they are at great risk when they must later appear again before the exposed Bad Judge. Exposure of rotten judicial apples offends and embarrasses the entire judiciary. When a lawyer, in diligent pursuit of his client’s interests, dares stand up to Bad Judges, the “system” locks arms, and seeks to punish or suppress the iconoclastic lawyer. The system’s resistance to admitting the existence of a bad judge can be astounding. Yet someone must stand up to challenge this cancer within the Judiciary. Bad Judges need to be weeded out. It is to the fair, competent judges that the following is dedicated


Leave a Reply