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Rifle High School attacker gets probation with added conditions

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. John and Alice Kuersten don’t think justice has been served in a what most agree was a racially motivated fight involving their daughter at Rifle High School.The 16-year-old who attacked their 14-year-old daughter received one year of probation Wednesday with strict added conditions.”(The 16-year-old) did a very horrible, horrific thing, and nothing can excuse what she did,” 9th Judicial District Deputy District Attorney Tony Hershey said. “But there are some mitigating factors, and one of the main ones is that she’s a juvenile.”Alice Kuersten, mother of the 14-year-old, stood and walked forward, crying.”He’s asking for mercy, did (the 16-year-old) show that to my daughter?” she asked. “I don’t want mercy. I want punishment.”The 16-year-old, who is not being named because she’s a juvenile, pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in June, reduced from second-degree assault in a plea agreement. She was expelled from Rifle High School after the incident. Hershey said the girl was born in Grand Junction and is moving to New Mexico.Judge Paul Metzger said she’ll have to pay a large amount of restitution to be finalized within 90 days. Hershey estimated it could be around $19,000. The 16-year-old must attend counseling, do 40 hours of community service, write a letter of apology and write a report on the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She has to complete high school or GED classes and get a job if she’s not a full-time student. The girl’s mother must participate in family counseling or parenting classes and English classes as directed by the probation office.The Kuersten’s daughter entered the court room flanked by eight family members and friends. She cried after entering and spoke to the judge later with a shaky voice. The 16-year-old appeared with her mother and sister, also speaking with a shaky voice later in the hearing.The Kuerstens said their daughter suffered injuries including a broken nose, fractured skull, separated vertebrae and a dislocated shoulder. They were also dismayed that their daughter received six months of probation for a disorderly conduct charge, essentially the same thing the District Attorney’s Office recommended for the 16-year-old, in their view.”For them to say that a year of probation is enough punishment is absurd,” John Kuersten said. “This was a racially motivated attack. … It was done with prejudice and malicious intent.”He added that the 16-year-old’s intent was to scar his daughter’s face. He said she has a past history of violence, and that a school official told him she was forced to come to Rifle High because of similar behavior at another school.”She doesn’t seem to have any kind of remorse,” Alice Kuersten said. “She can sit in a courtroom and smile, act like it was no big deal.”Her daughter no longer attends the school. She said e-mails threatened to “finish her off” if she ever goes back to Rifle High.The 16-year-old’s mother said through an interpreter that she wished it hadn’t happened and she accepts whatever the court decides.”I know my daughter and I know that she’s not a bad person,” she said.The 16-year-old said she didn’t mean to hurt the other girl as badly as she did. She said she was being called names, didn’t know what to do and hit her. She kept hitting her because she thought the girl would hit her back.”I didn’t want to hurt her in that way,” she said. “I just lost control.””She knew what she was doing when she came running down the hall after me,” the 14-year-old said. “I did not have one word with her.”The fight began after a boy allegedly made sexual comments to the 14-year-old. She admitted to making racial comments back and was attacked by the larger, 16-year-old Latino girl the next day.Three people from an anti-illegal immigration group from Grand Junction appeared at the hearing.”First the school board used (the 14-year-old) as a scapegoat for denial that there’s any racial or illegal immigration problems at the school,” said Dana Isham, head of the Rocky Mountain Minutemen. “And now she’s been lynched by the criminal justice system.”Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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