10/04/2011

Teen Crime - Adult Time



15-year-old Trevor Reizenstein learned he'll be in custody for at least the next 10 years.

In August, Reizenstein pleaded guilty to the 2007 attempted murder of a 5-year-old girl in Nampa.

Reizenstein was just 12 when the crime happened, but despite that, he was charged as an adult. He’s believed to be the youngest defendant ever to be charged as an adult in Idaho.

In a plea deal, he admitted to attempted murder and battery. That allowed him to avoid a trial, and the possibility of having to register as a sex offender.

"There are several things we think about," said John Bujak, Canyon County prosecutor. "First and foremost (it's the) protection of society."

In Idaho, some crimes involving children 14 and up are automatically prosecuted in the adult system including murder, rape, and robbery. But prosecutors had a choice to make when it came to Reizenstein.

"I don't think anytime you're dealing with criminal justice you can have any bright line rules," Bujak said. "Sometimes the legislature will give us bright line rules, but when discretion is involved, I think you have to look at each individual case."

Pamela Reizenstein, Trevor’s mother, isn't making excuses for her son's crime.

"Whatever he said he did was terrible. I've got a little girl myself, and that was a friend of mine also," says Reizenstein. "It hurts, it hurts really bad."

But Reizenstein doesn't think anyone should pay an adult price for a crime committed at the age of 12. "I still think a child's a child," she says, "but that's not our say."

Dr. Tom Young, with the Warm Springs Counseling Center believes trying kids as adults opens up other philosophical arguments. "To me personally, if I can believe that I can treat him as an adult at age 12, I've got to start looking at a set of laws that don't let people be adults for certain things until they're 18, for certain other things 16, other things 21," says Young.

Young says looking at the factors that led up to a child's actions might be more valuable to society than punishment.

Pamela Reizenstein does not believe her son was sexually abused himself. "Trevor was experimenting with certain things,” his mother says, “but as far as anything sexual, no, not at all."

Bujak says the decision to prosecute a 12-year-old as an adult was difficult, but called the safety of society the overriding factor. He also believes Reizenstein will have a chance of rehabilitation spending the first part of his sentence in juvenile detention.

"Here's a situation where we have a young man who's proven to be a danger to the community," says Bujack, "but there's also going to be some focus on rehabilitation and a chance to see if he can be reintegrated into society with continued supervision after he becomes an adult."

At his sentencing, the teen addressed the family of his victim, and apologized. "I really am sorry for what I did to your daughter. I really tried to do the counseling," said Reizenstein. "People make mistakes. I just hope I don't make another mistake. I don't know what else to say."

Pamela said she has encouraged her son to make amends for his crime. "I just asked him to ask God for forgiveness and also go deep within himself, and from the bottom of his heart apologize when the time is right for him,” she says. “I can't force him to do that."

Reizenstein’s punishment includes a blended sentence, which was part of the plea deal. The blended sentence means Reizenstein will be in juvenile custody until he's 21. At that time, he could be placed on probation, or a judge could order him to serve out the rest of his sentence in adult prison.


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