GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A local teenager with a history of criminal activities was declared “a danger to yourself and the community” by Garfield County Judge Paul Metzger on Friday, and ordered to remain in the Grand Mesa Detention Unit until his next court hearing on charges he burglarized several cars recently.
The judge’s decision came after a hearing Friday afternoon at which the boy’s father tried to convince Metzger that the 15-year-old would be better off at home than in the juvenile detention center.
Names of the youth and his father are being withheld to prevent identification of the defendant, who is a minor.
According to the judge, the youth’s record of encounters with the police began in 2011, with several cases involving burglary and theft. He has been placed in intensive juvenile detention facilities, and has been on probation for two different cases, the judge said, but recently has been in “house detention,” meaning he has been staying with his father while awaiting court appearances.
Judicial officials, however, have filed complaints against the youth, involving allegations about use of marijuana, his missing appointments for random urine analysis tests and other proceedings, and his recent tendency to run afoul of the law. The 15-year-old also is accused of failing to enroll in drug and alcohol treatment programs, as directed by the court, and of bullying others at school.
“The latest school incident scared staff and students,” the judge said, noting that the school personnel were afraid for their own safety and that of the student body.
The judge asked for a report from a representative of YouthZone, the youth advocacy organization that has worked with this defendant, and was told the organization feels the youth needs to be shown the seriousness of his problems.
“It’s time for [the youth] to step up and take responsibility,” said Mary Jean Carnevale of YouthZone.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory told the judge that the official record read by Metzger “doesn’t paint the complete picture” about this particular 15-year-old.
The boy has broken into homes, to steal everything from televisions to guns, and at one point was arrested by police while allegedly in possession of a handgun he had stolen from a previous home break-in.
In one incident, Mallory continued, the boy was accused of criminal mischief, which Mallory said may sound rather minor. But the actual alleged offense, Mallory said, was setting fire to the seat in a school bus.
And last month, Mallory said, the defendant had been caught in possession of numerous items believed to have been stolen during a series of car break-ins.
“He clearly presents a danger to himself and others,” Mallory told the judge, asking that the youth be kept in juvenile detention rather than be released in his father’s custody.
The father, however, told the judge that his son “had a behavioral problem” for some time, “but it was never criminal ‘til he met these older kids” as a result of being thrown in with them as part of the juvenile justice system.
Plus, the father claimed, “All these kids are doing, it’s because of the weed, the pot they’re smoking.”
He admitted to having smoked when he was young, but noted that pot today is much stronger than the pot of his youth.
He said his son was doing better at home, starting to attend church-youth meetings and weaning himself from pot, until a recent series of events that he said could be attributed to his son’s keeping bad company.
“He’s never been in any trouble when he was with me, or in house arrest,” the father insisted. “He hasn’t hurt anybody.”
Metzger acknowledged that the youth has made improvements in his behavior, but that he now faces a possible charge of violating his probation from an earlier case.
“There have been some extremely serious cases,” the judge said of the youth’s criminal record, pointing in particular to the gun possession accusation.
Speaking to the youth, who attended the hearing via a telephone link to the detention center, the judge concluded, “You are currently a danger to yourself and the community,” and ordered him held in the detention center at least until a hearing scheduled for Jan. 8 at the Garfield County Courthouse.