TACOMA – A 9-year-old boy who admitted on a national television talk show that he took a car, led police on a high-speed chase and talked his way onto two Southwest Airlines flights is in talks with prosecutors about entering a court-monitored diversion program.
Semaj Booker was charged Tuesday with second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission, attempting to elude an officer and driving without a license after his lawyer acknowledged in court that the boy knew taking the car was wrong. A Pierce County Superior Court judge entered not-guilty pleas on his behalf, The News Tribune reported.
Deputy prosecutor Fred Wist said he has been in extensive talks with Booker’s lawyer, Brett Purtzer, about entering the boy in a program that would allow him to avoid a trial and have his record wiped clean.
“The juvenile court system is not about making examples of people,” Wist said. “Diversion may be in the best interest of Semaj at the end of the day.”
Authorities say the boy took a neighbor’s car Jan. 14 and sped down Highway 512 with police in pursuit. He eventually crashed when the car’s engine blew, according to court records.
The next day, he talked his way onto two Southwest Airlines flights and flew to Texas by himself. The boy later appeared on the talk show “Dr. Phil” – in violation of a court order – to discuss his antics.
Wist said Tuesday that Semaj is doing well in school, receiving counseling and getting support from a social services agency.
“This is the first time our office has ever charged a 9-year-old with criminal offenses,” he said.