The 13-year-old student arrested Wednesday after allegedly threatening violence at two Bangor schools faces a juvenile justice system that has rehabilitation rather than punishment as its sole goal.
He was released into the custody of a parent, Penobscot County District Attorney Marianne Lynch said Thursday. He will be evaluated by a juvenile probation officer to determine what services he may need as his case makes its way through the court system, Lynch said.
Information about when the teenager will appear before a judge has not been made public. Juvenile cases will next be heard April 2 and 23. It’s unlikely the case would be in court next week.
Since the court case will unfold in juvenile court, there will be key differences from how an adult case would unfold.
The student, whose name has not been released, is charged with Class C terrorizing, a felony charge because the threat he is accused of making sent buildings — in this case, all of Bangor’s public schools — into lockdown mode. During the lockdown, all doors were supposed to be locked, no one was supposed to be allowed to enter or exit, and students were to remain with adult supervisors.
Once in court, the student won’t enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Instead, he will either admit or deny the charges, which will be outlined in a petition rather than a complaint. He will be entitled to a court-appointed attorney if his family cannot afford to hire one. And he will have the option to request a trial before a judge, but he won’t be entitled to a jury trial as adults are.
Because the student faces a felony charge, the case will be public. If he were only facing a misdemeanor charge, the case would be sealed from the public under state law.
With rehabilitation as the goal, District Court judges have great leeway in sentencing children who have broken the law.
Incarceration at Long Creek Youth Development Center, the state’s youth prison, is one option, but a more likely path would involve probation up to his 21st birthday or a deferred disposition, under which the student’s case could be sealed from public view after he satisfies certain conditions the judge imposes. As an adult, the juvenile would not have a criminal record.
Augusta defense attorney Walter McKee, who has handled many juvenile cases, said Thursday that deferred dispositions “are very effective” in his experience.
“They give the opportunity for a juvenile to show that they can stay out of trouble and that whatever happened wasn’t because of some deep-seated problems,” he said. “With the prospect of a juvenile adjudication and a stiff juvenile penalty — or worse, potential bind over [to be tried as an adult] — hanging over their head, they have every incentive to succeed.”
McKee said the most critical factor in the successful completion of a deferred disposition or probation in a juvenile case is family support.
“Deferred dispositions and probation have lots of requirements,” he said. “It is easy for adults to get off track, and teenagers, with all of the many distractions they have and a greater distractibility just because of their age, need even more regular guidance and oversight. But they can and do get through it, and when they do, they are better off for it. And so is society.”