Friday, August 22, 2008

Syracuse (Utah) High School Burglars To Pay Fines And Restitution For Crime Spree, Will Not Play Varsity Football In 2008

In one of the more poorly-constructed stories I've seen from the Ogden Standard-Examiner, five Syracuse High School students convicted of being involved in a springtime burglary spree will pay restitution. Four of them who intended to play high school varsity football this fall will not be playing. This case was previously discussed on July 21st and July 27th.

Because the story is so poorly-written and confusing, I will rewrite it to straighten it out. The five students initially will pay more than $12,000 in fines. In addition, they will also pay restitution to their victims. As of post time, the running total of restitution claims by the victims has reached $40,000, but half the victims have not yet reported their damages to prosecutors. As the reports filter in, additional restitution hearings will be scheduled in 2nd District Court later this year and in early 2009.

Collectively, while awaiting their judgment, the teens also spent 42 days in juvenile detention and 96 days on home detention. And finally, the Standard-Examiner has learned that four of the teens who intended to play varsity football this year are not listed on this year's varsity team roster for the first game of the season against Roy High School, which implies that the school committee earlier decided against allowing them to play. The ridiculous Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act forbids the school or the district from publicly announcing the committee's decision. [Ed. Note: Taxpayers pay for these public schools whether or not they use them, and they should have the right to know about disciplinary actions like this.]

This latest story offers more refined details about the case, which began in June after four of the teens were arrested for burglary in Ogden after crashing their car into an apartment building following a chase. Two other teens were interviewed later and one of them was charged. The teens are implicated in four nights of vehicle and business burglaries, vandalism and theft. The incidents occurred in April, May and June in Syracuse, Riverdale and Ogden. One of the teens said they did it "for the rush".

Court records obtained under the Government Records Access and Management Act reveal additional details about the case not previously reported. Although all of the teens attend Syracuse High School, the court records show that they live in several cities. They include two 17-year-olds from West Point, a 17-year-old from Clearfield, a 16-year-old from Clinton and a 17-year-old from Syracuse. The records also show that police believe their involvement was not consistent. Here's the breakdown:

- The Clearfield teen and one from West Point were implicated in four incidents, resulting in 13 convictions each and more than $4,000 in fines each.
- The Syracuse 17-year-old was implicated in one episode and had three convictions and no fines.
- The Clinton teen was implicated in three incidents, was convicted of five charges and was ordered to pay $1,625.
- The second West Point teen was implicated in two incidents, was convicted of seven charges and was ordered to pay $1,892.

Their debts to the court will increase after restitution is calculated. The total amount will be determined at restitution hearings later this year and next, court records show, by which time the businesses victimized are expected to provide information to the court. The teens will be allowed to challenge the amounts.

Prosecutor Rick Westmoreland said he is pleased with the outcome of the cases, and said that the teens' sentences in some ways are more severe than the penalty adults might get for similar charges. Westmoreland added that the hardest part of the disposition is to have all those fines on top of restitution. In the adult system, that just wouldn't be there. But the flip side of that is they don't have the possibility of incarceration like adults.

Opinion: Looks like the teens have been dealt with fairly. None of them had any prior records, and all were said to be good students. They just got caught up in a spate of bad behavior. Heavy restitution is a better choice than incarceration for these kids.

I commend the high school's eligibility committee for deciding to disallow the four teens from playing varsity football this year. The community was almost overwhelmingly opposed to letting them play. This is a school and a district that apparently respects community standards.

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