Teen pleads guilty to gun, drug, assault and escape charges

EVERETT — A juvenile inmate who escaped from a hospital earlier this month during a lapse in security was rolled into court in a wheelchair Friday. He was in shackles and wore a mask around his mouth to prevent him from spitting on the six detention officers surrounding him.

He cursed and complained that he couldn’t breathe. A judge had authorized the boy to be restrained because of his ongoing assaultive behavior. Juveniles generally aren’t cuffed while in court.

His family yelled out that he was being mistreated. They also encouraged the teen to calm down.

Staff at Denney Juvenile Justice Center reported that the boy, 16, had repeatedly spit on custody officers and threatened to kill them. On Thursday, he reportedly threatened to “put 30 rounds in the judge’s head.”

Superior Court Judge George Bowden didn’t see a need to recuse himself from Friday’s hearing despite the threat. The teen pleaded guilty to five felony charges stemming from separate incidents during a two-week stretch, including the escape and illegal gun and drug possession. He also pleaded guilty to custodial assault and harassment of a detention officer.

Prosecutors agreed to drop an additional gun and drug charge arising out of allegations from March.

The Daily Herald is not naming the boy because he is a juvenile.

The teen was sentenced to a minimum of 16 months in a state juvenile institution. He could be held for up to 18 months, depending on his behavior. Bowden found grounds for manifest injustice, meaning there were aggravating factors to keep the teen locked up beyond a typical sentence for his crimes.

He faced up to four months without the finding, according to prosecutors.

When asked if he had anything to say before being sentenced, the boy said, “You need to work on your staff.”

The teen became agitated again when he was ordered not to have any contact with his girlfriend. Defense attorney Kristin Timm had argued against the order, saying the girl isn’t a bad influence. “I think she’s a good girl, a nice girl,” Timm said.

Bowden pointed out that the teen was arrested with the girl a week after his escape and she also was with him in June when the teen was found with a 9mm Ruger pistol and marijuana.

The defendant cursed at the judge. He threatened Bowden again when the judge encouraged the teen not to follow in his father’s footsteps. The teen’s father is in prison.

The boy’s mother later chastised the judge, saying it was wrong to bring that up. “He hasn’t been in the picture from Day One,” she said. “Why’d you say that?”

Another relative told the judge they would be sending a letter to document the boy’s inhumane treatment at Denney, saying staff had teased him about being a “gangster.”

The family has disputed Everett police’s claims that the teen is a gang member. Officers reported that the teen is a suspect in recent drive-by shootings. They also reported that his house has been the target of gunfire in recent months.

He was stopped in March after being found in a car with a windshield that was too dark. The boy, then 15, told police he was selling marijuana to the driver, 18. Officers said they could smell marijuana and seized the car. The two teens were released. Officers said they later found two guns in the car and marijuana.

Everett police’s Anti-Crime Team, which has been targeting gang crimes, conducted surveillance on the boy’s house multiple times but he wasn’t located. The team, along with a federal agent and an officer with the state Department of Corrections, found the boy late last month and arrested him for the March incident. They seized the car again and found a loaded 9mm pistol and marijuana.

Staff at Denney became concerned with the boy’s mental health after he made threats to harm himself. A designated mental health provider arranged for the teen to be released to her so he could be evaluated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

The teen lashed out when told he was being hospitalized, according to court papers. He was restrained on a stretcher and taken to Providence’s Colby campus. No security personnel accompanied the boy and he ran from a nurse who was escorting him to the restroom.

“He was not under the custody of Denney Juvenile Justice Center at that time,” said Brooke Powell, assistant administrator for Snohomish County Superior Court, juvenile court operations.

The boy, however, was charged and pleaded guilty to escaping from “the custody of Denney Juvenile Justice Center.”

The teen’s escape from the hospital has prompted the juvenile court to take a look at its processes, said Superior Court Administrator Marilyn Finsen. “We will continue to review our processes for the best interest of the children.”

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Chris Dickinson said Friday his office hasn’t decided if the boy will face additional charges based on the alleged threats to the judge and other incidents of spitting on custody staff.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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