Friday, May 18, 2012

Boys sentenced for torching police cars

Authorities decide to not ‘throw away these kids’


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Judge Mark Ingram presides over a previous case in 5th District Court. Express file photo

Three Blaine County boys were given light sentences Thursday for trying to burn two police vehicles in Hailey in 2010, after court testimony showed that all three have accepted responsibility for their actions and have taken steps to become productive members of society.

Blaine County Juvenile Court Judge Mark Ingram described the crimes as "horrific," but noted that the boys deserve another chance.

"I'm not happy about what happened—this was really serious," Ingram said. "The good news is there have been significant changes in attitude, there have been significant changes in heart, there have been significant changes in activity that are going in the right direction."

The boys, now all 17, were 16 when the crimes occurred in December 2010. All three were charged with felony arson when arrested in November 2011. They all pleaded guilty in plea agreements in 2012.

Ingram gave two of the boys 21 days detention sentences and gave the third, who has prior misdemeanor convictions, 45 days detention. The third boy, however, had already served 45 days in jail and Ingram did not impose any further detention time. All three were also placed in supervised probation for three years.

The judge further ordered each boy to perform 100 hours of community service, to pay restitution of $589, to maintain a B average in school and to make a public apology.

The crimes occurred two nights in a row. The first happened on the evening of Dec. 27, 2010, when petroleum was dumped on the rear of a Blaine County Sheriff's vehicle parked at a deputy's home on Aspen Valley Drive in southeast Hailey. The second occurred on the evening of Dec. 28, 2010, when two Molotov cocktails were thrown at a Ketchum police vehicle parked at an officer's home on Third Street in Hailey.

Though damage to the two vehicles was minor, the crimes sparked a massive police investigation involving law enforcement throughout the Wood River Valley and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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At Thursday's hearing, Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas said police were in a high state of alert regarding the arsons until it was finally resolved that the boys were the culprits.

"Judge, these weren't high school pranks," Thomas said. "These were crimes that anywhere in the country would be described as terrorism. To burn a police car, they were sending a message of fear. Police had no idea if this was part of a drug cartel—they had no idea if there was someone out to get police."

Thomas noted that one victim's family was at home when the arson occurred.

"The physical damage was minimal, but the psychological impacts on the victims, on their families, on law enforcement is hard to measure," he said.

"Had they been 18 years old, this case would have gone federal," Thomas said.

The prosecutor said he recommended light sentences because all three of the boys had changed their attitudes toward police and society since they were arrested. He described a four-hour "restorative conference" between police, the victims and their families and the boys and their families that seemed to resolve the issues leading to the crimes.

All three boys apologized to the court and described how they have changed their lives since the arsons occurred.

"Let's don't throw away these kids," said Ketchum attorney Brian Elkins, who represented one of the defendants.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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