|A judge Friday sentenced four black teenagers to probation and 60 days of house arrest for their roles in the mob beatings of three white women on Halloween night, evoking tears of joy among the defendants and their relatives and gasps of indignation among the victims' families.|
"Juvenile Court is a joke," said Barbara Schneider outside the Long Beach courthouse as her daughter Laura, who suffered a concussion during the attack, sobbed next to her.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Bouas had asked for nine months in probation camp for three of the teenagers. Her jaw dropped when Judge Gibson Lee gave the first defendant probation, and as the hearings went on, she choked up, wiping her eyes with tissue.
Despite testimony that their involvement in the beatings varied, Lee handed identical sentences of probation, house arrest and 250 hours of community service to Anthony and Antoinette Ross, twins who turned 18 during the trial; to their 16-year-old sister; and to another 16-year-old described during the trial as Anthony's girlfriend.
Another five teenagers convicted in the case are scheduled to be sentenced beginning Monday morning in the Superior Court. They have spent 95 days in custody.
A 10th defendant, the Rosses' 12-year-old sister, was acquitted of all charges.
The rulings Friday surprised both sides in the case, as Lee had repeatedly denied motions to have the 10 youths released to their families before and during two months of trial, and then Jan. 26 convicted all but one of the assault.
Eight were also found to have committed a hate crime during the attack.
The reasoning behind this travesty of justice.
|But juvenile law experts say probation is common for youths with no criminal records.|
"The whole idea is not to simply throw people into the criminal justice system," said Daniel Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco. "The purpose of the juvenile justice system is not retribution; it's not even punishment. It's still rehabilitation."
Judges are expected to give the least restrictive sentence that would rehabilitate the minor, while protecting public safety, ratcheting up penalties only if initial discipline doesn't work.
"A tenet of the juvenile system is to give a graduated response to the child acting out," said Cyn Yamashiro, a professor at Loyola Law School and director of its Center for Juvenile Law and Policy.
So beating up people causing massive injuries is now acting out? There are times a stern warning should be skipped and punishment has to be given out.
|Judge Lee noted that "it was an awful crime, terrible physical and emotional injuries." But he said he had to "pick the least restrictive disposition."|
He then sentenced Anthony to probation, including 60 days of house arrest, during which he can leave only to go to school or church. The probation lasts until the teenagers are 21, although probation officials can end it earlier if the defendants stay out of trouble. Lee also ordered Anthony to perform 250 hours of community service and to attend an eight-week racial tolerance program offered by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Schneiders stormed out of the courtroom and railed against the decision to news cameras outside.
"We're just disgusted," Barbara Schneider said in an interview later. "That judge is a joke. He's going to be recalled. People are going to be screaming about this."
"You got your asses beat and have scars that will last a lifetime, but we must nice to the guilty because they may turn out to be something other than a pain to society."