Quick Hits – Charge him as an adult? Oh, that’ll work!

Once again, before we continue, though they may be the minority, there are some good folks diligently toiling on our behalf at the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office. The fact that serious issues persistently stalk those corridors in no way justifies throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

But sadly, the fact I have to consistently remind you of those fine folks’ existence belies just how bad that office has become. And here’s another fine example!

In response to an October tip, an investigation by the Batavia Police, the Kane County Bomb Squad, the Northern Illinois Major Crimes Task Force, the FBI, and U.S. Postal Inspectors, led to the arrest of a 15 year-old Batavia High School Sophomore on charges of possessing bomb-making materials.

The youth has been held in the Kane County Juvenile facility since being charged.

Batavia High School

But last week, KCSAO prosecutors filed a motion to move the case into the adult court system where, depending upon the variety of Class X felony finally applied, he could serve 30 years with no possibility of parole. As it stands now, he would likely remain in juvenile custody until his 21st birthday.

So, aside from a prosecutor trying to make a name for herself on the back of a teenager in a slam-dunk case, what’s the point? How does this potential move make anything better for anyone?

A fifteen-year-old male’s brain is not nearly fully developed, and we all know exactly what’s gonna happen if he’s placed in an adult correctional center now, or at the ripe young age of 21. Should he manage to survive that “experience,” he’ll certainly be a far greater risk to society when he’s inevitably released.

I understand times have changed since the 1970s, but when I consider the stupid shit my friends and I did in high school, I can’t believe we’re still here!

My friend Tony and regularly built what we called “fireworks,” but they were nothing more than bombs we’d set off along the Evanston lakefront. My buddy Peter and I found two adjacent empty lockers and “borrowed” enough chemistry class equipment to build our own lab. And though our “experiments” never put the school or its inhabitants at risk, it was fascinating to watch exactly what happens when you expose solid sodium to water.

Let’s just say we had to exit that bathroom rather quickly!

My basic point is, depending upon whom you ask, having somehow survived those eminently questionable activities, I’ve turned out to be quite the upstanding and well-adjusted adult. But if Tony, Peter and I pulled that shit today, we be sent up the river without the proverbial paddle.

And what would jailing us have accomplished? Would it prevent the next real school threat from being carried out? C’mon! Does anyone really believe this absurd trumped-up charging effort will act as any kind of deterrent?

Considering the average teenager’s inability to see a scant three seconds into the future, if an isolated and/or bullied 15-year-old is bent on self-destruction to the point where he wants to take the rest of us with him, the fact that someone else got caught and nailed won’t even enter into his under-developed thought process.

And how did this young bomb maker come to light? That’s right! A tip! So, what do you think is gonna happen the next time a high school sophomore goes down this dark path? That’s right! He’s not going to say a word about it to anyone. Even a teenage boy understands something as simple as “tried as an adult.”

Though I’m sure you’ll do your best to do it, please don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying this kid should go scot free. But until someone tells me exactly what trying him as an adult will accomplish, I think it’s a vast KCSAO overreach that benefits no one and makes us much less safe.

Before you hit the send button like you did with the Elgin homeless and Aurora Wayside Cross Ministries columns, I have previously practiced exactly what I’m preaching here. My long-time readers know my bright red pickup truck was firebombed on my driveway by three drunk teenagers in April of 2016.

While I won’t cover the specific details of the deals I worked out with then KCSAO juvenile prosecutor Lark Cowart because it would be too self-serving even for me, if you run into Kane County defense attorney extraordinaire Gary Johnson, he has my express written consent to fill you in.

Coincidentally, Mr. Johnson is also the attorney for our unnamed 15-year-old.

Put more simply, these kids have their whole life in front of them, and within the bounds of reason, that existence shouldn’t be fully determined by one truly stupid mistake. If we put every 15-year-old in an adult jail for stupidity, there wouldn’t be a free 15-year-old left on the planet.

Thankfully, all is not lost. The only way the KCSAO will get their way is if the juvenile judge signs off on the motion, and I have enough faith in the process to believe she won’t do it. Considering we were all teenagers at one point, I cannot begin to fathom how humanity’s survived for 200,000 long years.

Maybe there really is a God!

9 thoughts on “Quick Hits – Charge him as an adult? Oh, that’ll work!

  1. This one is a tough one for
    Me. You don’t want the failed judgement of a teenager to systematically end his
    Life over this. However, the detailed planning (including blueprints of the school) tend to make you believe that this was a pretty serious endeavor. My son is 15 and is at the school. It is terrifying to think of what could have happened. I hope that there is significant psychological testing to determine what the true intentions were and to also see if there is a mental illness component involved. Pre-trial reports should be able to help determine the viability of recidivism or ability to learn and grow from this event. I am so happy that someone did make the call that potentially saved many lives.

    • Mike,

      I don’t disagree with anything you said and my understanding is the psych eval is ongoing. But the one thing I do know is that adult jail is NOT the answer.

      Jeff

    • I’m sure there will be physiological testing here, as there should be! We need to have more mental health classes for middle school & high school levels….it most ALWAYS comes back to mental illness . He should definitely be tried as a juvenile because that’s what he is!

  2. A long time ago the Juvenile Code started with the words “In order to help the child” Then after the great and unrealized fears of Crack Babies growing up to be teenage terrorists the whole Juvenile Code was changed from idea of help and reformation to punishment the preamble was changed to start “In order to safeguard and protect the public” Automatic transfers were introduced. Prior to the change, had to show child was offered help and help did not work and presumption was keep in Juvenile. I practiced for a long time I had one transfer and that did not go and kid was charged with shooting someone. Certainly never saw a first offender transferred.
    It is strange, as you point out, more evidence of children’s minds not being fully formed yet we are sending them off to prisons. Personally I think kid is over charged now. But I guess the public will always seek punishment over help, Convict him as an adult now, brand him with a felony, and you will deal with him for 40 years. There are very few voters who truly believe in a second chance and not a politician in the world that will ever vote to lessen a punishment; which ties into what is happening in Aurora. And I consider myself a very conservative Republican but there is not as much justice in the justice system as people think

    • Jim,

      Of course, I agree with you. And the overcharging hasn’t happened yet. Whether he’s moved to an adult court or not will be up to the juvenile judge.

  3. I believe most SA and ASA have forgotten what “Justice” is.

  4. I believe there is a reason for the Juvenile Justice System and that is to deal with juveniles. We tell them all the time that they aren’t smart enough or ADULT enough to deal with adult topics like smoking, drinking, voting, full driving privileges… But here they are willing to claim that at 15 this person is smart enough to think like an adult and should be treated like an adult. Wrong! Though my children never acted in this manner they did enough stupid things that they could have been possibly been charged as adults and that would have been a shame because the world would have lost some successful, productive young adults

  5. Dave,

    I wholeheartedly agree, and that shift starts with their take-no-prisoners bosses.

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