Judge’s $250,000 bail for 12-year-old caught with gun in Boston stirs controversy
BOSTON ” Judge Paul D. Lewis has seen it all during his 23 years in juvenile court: kids involved in shootings, kids involved in killings, kids involved in rapes at gunpoint.
So when a 12-year-old boy came into his court charged with possession of a firearm, Lewis had seen enough.
The judge set the boy’s bail at $250,000 ” 50 times higher than the $5,000 sought by prosecutors. His decision shocked prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.
But Lewis said he is simply trying to protect the public. “We can’t have kids out in the community with guns and firing guns,” Lewis said in an interview with The Associated Press Wednesday.
“Innocent people get killed ” intended targets get killed and unintended targets get killed ” in either case it’s wrong, it’s inappropriate, and we have to do something about it as a community.”
Lewis said he is surprised by all the attention his bail decision is receiving. He has set high bail and even held juveniles without bail in other cases, he said.
But the age of the boy and the circumstances of the case have some lawyers questioning the decision. No one was hurt in the shooting and the boy was arrested on a juvenile firearms possession charge. Children’s advocates also point out that juvenile crime in the nation and in Massachusetts has steadily declined over the last decade.
“I respect the judge’s level of frustration and understand his frustration, but a bail of this magnitude is certainly not a common occurrence,” said Barbara Kaban, deputy director of the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, a nonprofit legal advocacy and resource center providing representation to low-income children.
“This is a child with no prior record,” said Kaban.
Boston police said the incident happened at about Monday when officers heard a loud noise at an intersection and saw the 12-year-old boy running away.
A 20-year-old man and an 11-year-old boy told police they had been lighting firecrackers, but police did not find any firecrackers. The 12-year-old boy returned to the intersection carrying a black bandanna. Inside, officers founded a loaded .38-caliber handgun, prosecutors said. One round had been fired, and another remained in the chamber. The 12-year-old boy was arrested.
The boy’s lawyer, Mariann Samaha, said she plans to appeal the bail decision.
“I was really surprised by it,” Samaha said. “This case is about a 12-year-old boy. This is a child. We need to remember that.”
The boy faces a maximum sentence of commitment to the Department of Youth Services until the age of 18.
David Procopio, a district attorney spokesman, said prosecutors asked for a $5,000 bail because it was “fair” and would be enough to ensure the boy’s return to court for later proceedings.
“Twelve years old is very much on the low end of the spectrum in terms of a youth charged with a gun offense,” Procopio said. “We certainly share the judge’s frustration with the problem of children and teenagers in Boston carrying and using guns. We thought our bail request was fair, though.”
David Frank, a former prosecutor in the gang unit of the district attorney’s office, said the $250,000 bail is by far the highest he remembers in a juvenile case.
“I know that Judge Lewis in particular views firearms offenses as being extremely serious. It’s not uncommon for him to set bails that are reflective of that,” Frank said.
Lewis said he believes an increase in gun possession cases in his court over the last decade is directly related to an increase in drugs and gang activity.
“These kinds of things won’t get resolved until we as a society are willing to discuss them,” he said. “I think it’s important for people to understand what judges are confronted with in these cases, and the amount of violence that is in our community and being caused by juveniles.”
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