Teen who attacked bus driver from Alki gets extra-long sentence

April 13, 2010 at 9:25 am | In Crime, West Seattle news | 38 Comments

gavel.jpgAt King County Juvenile Court, the 14-year-old who beat an Alki woman unconscious as she worked as a Metro bus driver has just been sentenced to a year in juvenile custody – Judge Chris Washington decided to impose the extra-long sentence the prosecution had requested, rather than the standard sentence (at least a third less) that his lawyer had asked for.

Before announcing his decision, Judge Washington heard from the attacker’s mother – late to the hearing, reportedly because she was working as a school-bus driver – and very briefly from the 14-year-old himself. The mother insisted her son is “a good kid” and could “never hit anyone” and started to blame the victim for what happened the January night her son lashed out while the bus stopped in Tukwila. But she was interrupted by the judge and prosecutor and told not to address the victim again. Her son briefly addressed the victim at the judge’s suggestion – saying only “Sorry for assaulting you.” The victim asked that he say it again while looking at her; the judge said he could not order the boy to do so, but he did it voluntarily. She said, “Thank you.” She had said yesterday – when she made her statement (read it in our previous report), though the sentencing itself was not concluded because of a delay requested by the defense lawyer – that she wasn’t sure she’d be here today; but this morning, she told WSB, “I needed the closure” that being here for the duration would provide.

The attacker has already spent 11 weeks in juvenile detention, which will be credited toward his one-year sentence; he also was ordered not to ride Metro buses between 8 pm and 6 am until he is 21, and will have to pay restitution for any costs the victim has incurred because of what happened. The judge explained his decision by citing “the severity” of the attack and saying he would not accept any attempt to blame it on the fact the 14-year-old wasunder the influence of alcohol at the time. ADDED 10:53 AM: More details from the hearing, including more of what the judge and the teen’s mother said – read on:

The victim’s son was again there to support his mother as she faced her attacker for a second straight day. The media presence was a little lighter – one TV camera again serving as “pool,” with a couple others plugged into the feed from outside, and not as many other journalists as yesterday. Juvenile Court is right next to the county juvenile detention facility:

In his opening remarks, asking for a sentence in the standard range – up to 36 weeks – for second-degree assault, the teen’s lawyer described a letter of apology that his client apparently had given the judge, who expressed some surprise that the letter described the physical contact as “touching”: After all, he said, the driver was “(rendered) unconscious.”

The lawyer attributed the choice of words to his client’s age, and insisted, “I think he’s taken some responsibility for his behavior.” But he then went on to suggest there was “an indication of some provocation … when (a bus) door gets closed on somebody, you shouldn’t do something as rash and violent as this, but I ask the court to take that into account.” He also suggested his client was to some degree failed by the system, having been contacted more than a dozen times by law-enforcement officers specializing in gang activities, without any interventions or referrals (let alone arrests).

The defense lawyer was wrapping up when the suspect’s mother arrived. She was offered the chance to speak – here is our best attempt at transcribing her remarks:

I did apologize to the victim … took me some time to think. My son is a victim and she is a victim herself. I believe my son is not guilty of assaulting the driver. This is in your courtroom because of his behavior and the way the driver handled herself. … My son is not capable of hitting anyone. I need help with (managing his behavior). I apologize again. (starting to address the victim) If you had prevented the situation ….”

At this point, the victim started to protest, and the prosecutor and judge asked the mother not to address the victim again. Judge Washington pointed out that the plea was guilty, suggesting the boy himself did not deny involvement; then the judge clarified that he was most interested in hearing more about why the mother thinks “he will not continue to behave as he does and hang out with the kind of guys he does? I am (also) curious to know how things are going around the house – is he a help, is he a constant source of worry every time he leaves …

With that, the mother continued:

My son is 14 years old. He does his chores, he is usually home on time, he is a good kid. He does his work, his homework, he slipped away that one night … he comes home on time from school, gets along with his brothers and sister, he is only 14 and he is learning as he is growing up. I cannot be a monitor 24-7, your honor.

She also denied that her son is a gang member, saying he may be “pretending.” (As we wrote yesterday, a gang detective from the King County Sheriff’s Office said the agency had had repeated contact with the boy and that he had met 10 of the 13 criteria they use for determining bonafide gang membership – while they consider that meeting any three of those criteria qualifies.)

A probation representative spoke next, noting, “He comes from a family where a lot of his siblings have been in trouble … this is an egregious crime, I agree … I believe he knows he did wrong. I believe he’s got some insight into his behavior, which is fairly unusual, really. Without any prompting, he thought his choice to consume alcohol that night played a factor in the actions he committed.”

At that point, the judge asked if the boy had anything to say, and he muttered his brief apology.

The judge addressed him at length, saying the boy’s decision “to turn on a person who is doing a pretty hard job in the first place, sitting in a relatively confined area” showed “a complete indifference to how somebody else feels,” a lack of empathy. He added, after saying he was going along with the prosecution’s recommended extra-long sentence, because of “manifest injustice,” that more than the length of the sentence, the issue for the boy is, “What you decide to do with it … When you get to where you are going, you have a decision to make, who you are going to associate with, how to participate … Have you thought about that?”

The boy shook his head.

The judge continued: “If you want to change and be the person you wrote about in your letter to me … you can start there.” With that, the hearing concluded. The judge had another trial to get to, in adult court downtown; the boy was taken back to detention; the driver stayed to chat a few moments with those who had come to support her.

38 Comments

  1. With a mother like that, it would seem there is little hope that he turns out to be a decent person.

    Comment by Jeff — 9:41 am April 13, 2010 #

  2. ‘good kids’ don’t do things like this.

    Comment by Steph in WS — 9:41 am April 13, 2010 #

  3. Wow, the irony. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Mama’s a bus driver, too? And she’s still blaming the victim? She should not be trusted to transport children. That woman is seriously lacking in judgement and character.

    Comment by KBear — 9:45 am April 13, 2010 #

  4. The Metro driver was courageous to show up in court and face her attacker. I admire her and hope she had some support in the courtroom with her. That’s a very difficult thing to do.

    Comment by Kate K — 9:54 am April 13, 2010 #

  5. Echoing the above sentiments about mother.

    The “my child is a special snowflake and would never do anything wrong” attitude that seems prevalent among so many parents of the current teens is NOT doing anything to help these kids be responsible adults. Knock it off, let them face the consequences of their actions – hell, GIVE them some damned consequences yourself – it’s called parenting. There are lots of great kids and parents as well, but there is also an awful lot of lack of personal responsibility. This is the end result of “helicopter parenting.”

    Comment by A — 9:57 am April 13, 2010 #

  6. “The 14-year-old was under the influence of alcohol at the time.” People should remember that when Wal-Mart and idiot “reformers” attempt to privatize state liquor stores.

    Comment by ivan — 10:06 am April 13, 2010 #

  7. Thanks, A…now I got an image of Homer Simpson acting like a helicopter. LOL

    But for that mother to make her son out as the victim is ludicrous! Kudos for the judge putting her in her place. It was after 7pm, so the driver was following Metro protocol by not letting people out of the back door. The sticker says, plain as day ‘Use front door after 7pm.’ Her kid and his friends flipped out and beat her up because they did not get their way. There were people on the bus that witnessed it. Was she there? No.

    I am interested to see how Metro will enforce his not being allowed to ride Metro at night until he turns 21.

    Comment by Dave H. — 10:07 am April 13, 2010 #

  8. Unbelievable (well not really) about the mother. I think she should have been punished too really. Because with an attitude like that she will continue to perpetuate this violence in her child and the child will be the dutiful son and do it again.

    I am impressed with how the victim has handled this ordeal. I am glad she got a chance to have him address her and that she got to address him. This doesn’t always happen. But I wonder if there was really any impact at all with a mother like that who is blaming the victim? You just wonder if this kids heart is already gone forever. Let’s hope not but I fear we will see his name again.

    Comment by mr — 10:25 am April 13, 2010 #

  9. Really wondering why this juvenile gets a really long sentence and Officer McKissack’s beaters got a slap on the wrist and weren’t told to say ‘sorry’. Same savage beating with out of control youths etc. Yet they were aloud to walk.

    Comment by again — 10:28 am April 13, 2010 #

  10. If what goes around really does come around, I wonder what the mother’s reaction is going to be when her attackers parents blame her.

    Comment by Bruce W — 10:49 am April 13, 2010 #

  11. I hate it when people are convinced there child is golden and could never do anything harmful/bad. Even after he admitted he assaulted the driver she probabply dosen’t believe him! He still didn’t do it in her mind. I hope something else good becomes of all this. I think by him saying sorry the second time, voluntarily at the victims request, is atleast a shimmer of hope. I am proud that this judge punished him to the furthest extend. More judges need to do the same!

    Comment by bsmomma — 10:50 am April 13, 2010 #

  12. @ivan
    Doesn’t the fact that he was under the influence in the first place in our safe, publicly owned liquor store state invalidate that statement? It’s not like he took a road trip to California before dropping by a bus stop in Tukwila.

    Comment by Mac — 10:59 am April 13, 2010 #

  13. Unflippingbelievable. According to mommy, it was the Metro driver’s fault! As Bruce W alluded to, what if a similar thing happens to mommy, as she’s driving her school bus? (Not wishing it upon her, but if she’s hauling Jr. andor Sr High students it wouldn’t be unheard of.)

    .

    I, too, have the greatest amount of admiration for the Metro driver. As a long time rider, I don’t know if I “know” her, but I know they have a tough, often thankless job. I not only admire her ability to forgive, (I know simply as an observer through all of the news stories that I can not forgive this kid.), but I also admire her for standing up to him, and requesting he look directly at her when apologizing.

    .

    As far as restitution, in my mind mommy should start paying it immediately, instead of waiting for the kid to get out of juvie. Not only because the kid is her responsibility, she isn’t going to have to spend anything on his care and feeding for the next 40 some weeks, not to mention the 11 he’s already been in.

    .

    And kudos to the Judge for the max sentence.

    .

    And, yes “again”, the punks that assaulted Officer McKissak should have received at least the same sentence. Please tell me you don’t mean this little punk should have received a lesser sentence.

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 11:15 am April 13, 2010 #

  14. WSB, thanks for some really good, in-depth reporting on this. It’s clear that this child and his mother, (and probably her parents too, going back how many generations?) don’t know what good parenting is. It takes a world of reinforcement/support/accountability/consequences/consistency/and love to raise a child. Even under the best of circumstances it’s one of the hardest (and most important) jobs out there. This story screams of the absence of all of that in both their lives.
    As for the victim, I am so glad she went back today, as hard as it must have been for her, so she could tell him to look her in the eye when he apologized (what I tell my children to do!). I hope she feels surrounded by the prayers of support for her in this community.

    Comment by CurlyQ — 11:17 am April 13, 2010 #

  15. No, Mac, privatizing liquor sales would lead to more such incidents, and the additional tax dollars that we would have to spend on enforcing liquor sales violations (more state employees, more state salaries and benefits) would rub out any perceived savings that the privatizers claim we would realize.
    -
    Keeping liquor sales under state control is a direct deterrent to further incidents such as this one. I don’t want other bus drivers to experience what this one went through.
    -
    It’s understandable that a business owner who sells booze would favor cheaper, more accessible booze. But candidates for public office have an additional responsibility to public health and public order, and are forced to address — and to own — the consequences of more permissive policies. I look forward to seeing you do that on the campaign trail.

    Comment by ivan — 11:35 am April 13, 2010 #

  16. Ivan,

    Um, did you think or read this story before you wrote that? I am just taking a guess, and its only a guess, but I would say its safe to assume he had no problem with finding alcohol at home. In the liquor cabinet. Unlocked.

    psst, Wal Mart already sells alcohol in this state, its called beer and wine…

    Comment by Carson — 11:36 am April 13, 2010 #

  17. To the victim: You were brave to attend and face the defendant. I wish you continued healing.

    And, as for you, Ivan and Mac?

    You might want to consider knocking it off. You are trying to turn this thread into a campaign stump and I’d be somewhat embarrassed for the both of you if it weren’t so predictable.

    Comment by Inappropriate opportunists — 11:49 am April 13, 2010 #

  18. Stories about kids with these kinds of behavior problems are so depressing. What bothers me most about the lock-him-up-and-throw-away-the-key response is that it means the kid has no future. He is already disposable in the minds of everyone. There is no retrieval, repair, or redemption possible from that perspective. What services do kids like this receive while they are in detention? Anything? What good can come to someone like that? This is not to say the judge was unfair – actually it sounds about right to me. The mother sounds irresponsible and oddly detached. While people need to take responsibility for their actions, a child needs resources. Where are those resources going to come from, if not from the home? And if they are not available in the home, where will they come from? So rather than just be catty, judgmental, and smug about it, using this incident to display your own sense of moral superiority, why not think about what it would take to find real solutions, so these kinds of things won’t happen? What do you suggest? What are YOU going to do to make the City safer and better for kids, other adults, and families?

    Comment by sarelly — 12:01 pm April 13, 2010 #

  19. Apologies in order. I was wrong. Misidentified parties in my previous comment. Carry on.

    Comment by inappropriate opportunists — 12:14 pm April 13, 2010 #

  20. To the woman who faced her assailant: I hope that you find great comfort in your forgiveness. I admire you for it, and I think that you are a model for others. What a beautiful embodiment of compassion!

    To the child assaultant: Please, learn. Your victim gave you the gift of forgiveness…. please, learn from it. It is not too late to turn your life around.

    And to the defendant’s mother: Oh, honey. We all (myself included) want to see the best in our children, but your child needs your help. Insist on bringing out the best in your child – do not settle for less. “I’ll always love you, but my love does not mean I have low expectations of you.” Being firm can also be very kind.

    Comment by Kristina — 12:18 pm April 13, 2010 #

  21. The mother is a real piece of work. Deep, deep denial. Own up and take responsibility for your subpar parenting. Maybe if you try hard right now, your little monster won’t grow up to be a lifelong inmate, or worse. We can only hope.

    Comment by Paul in Gatewood — 12:23 pm April 13, 2010 #

  22. Sarelly, I was remiss in not making more mention of the services. I will go back to add but in the short run … This was a large part of the state’s argument, and I think I mentioned it at least briefly in yesterday’s story – that if he got a longer sentence, he would have more time for treatment and services in a secure facility – alcohol abuse treatment, anger management treatment, perhaps even gang intervention. The judge also mentioned education and counseling when he asked the boy whether he’d thought yet about what he intends to do with his time ahead in custody. Someone with firsthand knowledge would have to tell us more about the nature of those services and how effective they are, but it was mentioned by the prosecution yesterday that the three months he’s spent in county custody were “wasted time” because he has not had access to services. I don’t know if that’s SOP or not … TR

    Comment by WSB — 12:39 pm April 13, 2010 #

  23. How is this kid supposed to learn about personal responsibility when his mom and crappy lawyer want to blame everyone else for his actions?

    The lawyer “also suggested his client was to some degree failed by the system, having been contacted more than a dozen times by law-enforcement officers specializing in gang activities, without any interventions or referrals (let alone arrests).”

    I don’t understand how his lawyer lobbied for leniency by suggesting the boy continues bad behavior because he’s never been punished. Well, kid, you’re not getting out of this one.

    Comment by moxilot — 1:09 pm April 13, 2010 #

  24. to many boys grow up without a father. i know,i grew up without one. but i never hit a woman. after reading about this young guys mother and her stinking thinking it makes me feel so blessed to have been raised by one good parent (my mom).how dare his mom point a finger at anyone but herself.i feel for the bus driver and i hope the young guy turns his life around. as for the young guys mom, i have nothing good to say.

    Comment by wolfbain — 1:17 pm April 13, 2010 #

  25. I noticed that the word “father” was missing from this story. This fits a pattern we see way too often: Multiple children in a poor, fatherless household. Let’s face it, that’s a factor in most juvenile crime incidents.

    Comment by marty — 1:30 pm April 13, 2010 #

  26. You can read some of the information about the gang intervention here

    http://murray.senate.gov/news.cfm?id=319824

    I know I read some articles about it, but can’t seem to find them.

    To whomever was asking about the services and helping the kid, the programs there could be of help, but he (and his family) have to buy into it 110%, and sorry, I don’t see it happening. This mother is claiming her son is pretending when he meets 10 of the 13 criteria–that’s a mother in la la land, denial. She asked for help with her son, but is that because she’s in court getting called out, or sees he needs help? I guess only time will tell.

    Comment by Colleen — 1:48 pm April 13, 2010 #

  27. Ivan, you are bashing the wrong “Mac” – the business owner running for public office in the 34th doesn’t stoop to ranting on public message boards, and identifies himself by his full name when he welcomes new candidates to the race on those same public boards.

    Keep your personal vendettas against non-democrats running for office out of a discussion about juvenile delinquents. The “Mac” commenting on this post is not the one you think it is.

    TR, I request that Ivan’s comment be edited or deleted. If it cannot be, I hope this comment makes it clear that the “Mac” commenting in this thread is not the one running for public office.

    Comment by Digidoll — 2:43 pm April 13, 2010 #

  28. @ digidoll:
    -
    I have no “personal vendetta” against McElroy. I like the guy just fine, even if I oppose his candidacy. He has stated publicly that he favors privatizing liquor sales. If, as you say, he is not the “Mac” I responded to, then I apologize for that publicly, and stand corrected.
    -
    Nevertheless, alcohol was a factor in this assault, and I hope you’re not trying to deny that. I am not interested in any public policy that would make it easier for juveniles to get their hands on alcohol, which was a factor in this beating of this bus driver. That would be one potential effect of privatizing liquor sales.
    -
    You might not like hearing that, but the connection is pretty obvious.

    Comment by ivan — 2:58 pm April 13, 2010 #

  29. Isn’t the Judge in this case the same jerkoff who gave the scumbags who beat McKissack such light sentences?

    Comment by José — 2:58 pm April 13, 2010 #

  30. Jose, you are correct. I had no reason to crossreference and didn’t notice that (even though I was in the courtroom for both sentencings) but here’s our article from the McKissack case sentencing:
    http://westseattleblog.com/2009/06/happening-now-sentencing-in-high-point-officer-attack-case
    .
    That was not juvenile court, it should be noted, but was King County Superior Court. Also note if you read our article from last year, the judge took issue with the prosecutor having only charged third-degree assault in the case, rather than second- as was the case here.
    .
    TR

    Comment by WSB — 3:05 pm April 13, 2010 #

  31. marty has a good point and i thank him for making it. on the other hand it,s not the quantity of parents children have, it,s the quality. just because a woman can have a baby doesn,t mean she can be a mother. we see it all to often. oftentimes, the home is healthier and happier when one of the parents goes. when my father abbandoned our family and never looked back i was still blessed because i had a great mom. and still do!

    Comment by wolfbain — 3:28 pm April 13, 2010 #

  32. Ivan, I don’t see how you are making the connection that privatizing liquor sales would lead to more of this kind of violence. What evidence is there that the state can and does do a better job at controlling sales?

    Comment by Alki Observer — 3:29 pm April 13, 2010 #

  33. Wolfbain: I agree! I sure wasn’t trying to say that all single mothers were bad, many do an exceptional job. It is a fact that two-parent families are much more successful on the average. They also have higher average family incomes for obvious reasons. We would have much less juvenile crime if all kids had the family support they need and deserve.

    Comment by marty — 4:08 pm April 13, 2010 #

  34. Ivan, let me guess, you work for the Liquor Control Board? Career hack?

    Comment by Carson — 4:31 pm April 13, 2010 #

  35. WSB & Colleen: Thanks for the information. I would like to know more about what actually goes on in juvenile detention facilities. Hopefully something that can help these kids turn their lives around, because there is certainly no help or hope for incarcerated adults. Patty Murray’s page on gang violence says they have a program, but doesn’t describe what the program is in detail, or how it is implemented, or what the results have been. Does anyone know what are the criteria that define gang activity?

    Comment by sarelly — 4:54 pm April 13, 2010 #

  36. marty, i was so happy to see someone other then myself bring up the f-word,(father). Thank you my friend. and your right, for a time in my life i struggeled with anger(i was 5 when my dad left). in my 20s i got into hard drugs. when i turned 30 i grew up enough to walk away from the dope and losers and embrace the way my mom “tried” to raise me. i just feel the one thing the little s.o.b. who beat the bus driver needs is a good parent or 2. he has none. thats why the story made me feel blessed. i,m 50 now and recently moved my mom (who,s in her mid-80s) in with me, so i guess all her hard work wasn,t a total waste.LOL. i,d bet your a good dad. see you on the beach. your friend, chris.

    Comment by wolfbain — 5:05 pm April 13, 2010 #

  37. I was quite surprised to find out I was going to have to defend my views on a campaign trail! I’m not that Mac, and I don’t own any businesses. However, I remain unconvinced that somehow a state monopoly on liquor prevents more episodes of this. I’ve seen plenty of kids get plenty drunk on beer they’ve bought at their local convenience store, I don’t think there’s going to be a whole new constituency for underage drinking appearing the night liquor’s deregulated. The kids that would “take advantage” already are.

    Comment by Mac — 5:41 pm April 13, 2010 #

  38. Thanks, Tracy. I etched that name in my mind because when I see it on a ballot, I’ll know to vote against him/her.
    .
    That Prosecutor should be fired at the least.

    Comment by José — 5:58 pm April 13, 2010 #

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