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The Juvenile Prosecution Unit prosecutes all juveniles charged with offenses which would be punishable as felonies if committed by an adult. In addition, the Unit also prosecutes all juveniles who are charged by the Rhode Island State Police, State Fire Marshall and the Department of Environmental Management. The Unit is responsible for the prosecution of all juveniles who are charged with violations of probation, as well as the prosecution of adults who commit child neglect and exploitation of a minor.
This past year proved to be another busy year for the Juvenile Prosecution Unit. The Unit received 1,285 new petitions charging juveniles with criminal offenses. This represents 850 new delinquency charges and 745 wayward charges. Also, during 2012, the Unit prosecuted 686 new juvenile offenders, an increase of more than 225 from the previous year. A new juvenile offender is a juvenile not previously prosecuted by the Unit. This number does not include juveniles that the Unit prosecuted in past years or juveniles who re-offend during the current year.
The Unit received 1,285 new petitions charging juveniles with criminal offenses, representing 850 new delinquency charges and 45 wayward charges.
Rhode Island General Law allows the Office of Attorney General to seek to waive a juvenile out of the Family Court system to be tried as an adult in Superior Court. In 2012, the Juvenile Unit filed five Mandatory Waiver Motions, 19 Discretionary Waiver Motions, and 11 Certification Motions. Five of the Certification Motions were withdrawn and the juveniles pleaded to Rhode Island Training School sentences; two Certification Motions were denied and the juvenile pleaded to Rhode Island Training School sentences; two Discretionary Motions were withdrawn and the juveniles pleaded; two Discretionary Motions were amended to Certification Motions; one Mandatory Waiver Motion was amended and the juvenile pleaded to Training School time; one Mandatory Waiver motion was amended and the juvenile was certified; eight juveniles voluntarily waived; three Discretionary Waiver motions were granted; four juveniles were waived after hearing; six waiver motions and one certification motion are pending.
The Unit sought and received to have two juveniles – Quandell Husband and Russell Burrell – waived out of Family Court to be tried as adults for their roles in a triple homicide in Providence in July 2012. Two other individuals – both adults – have also been indicted for their roles in the July 30, 2012 murders of Shemeeka Barrows, Michael Martin, and Damien Colon.
207 juveniles were admitted to the Juvenile Drug Court and Drug Court Diversion Program.
In 2012, the Unit prosecuted 81 juveniles for school violence cases, not including the wayward offenses handled by municipalities. The range of offenses that occurred on school property included assault, breaking and entering, drug offenses, possession of weapons and bomb threats.
Last year, the Unit prosecuted 35 juveniles in Family Court for firearm cases. These included seven BB guns, one pellet gun, one stun gun, two shot guns and 26 firearms, of which nine were handgun/pistols.
The Unit participates in the Juvenile Drug Court, which aggressively addresses substance abuse and associative behaviors, which if not addressed could lead to further contact with the courts. Last year, 207 juveniles were admitted to the Juvenile Drug Court and Drug Court Diversion Program, of which 153 graduated from the program while 41 were terminated or discharged for violating the rules of the program.
The Juvenile Prosecution Unit is also responsible for covering cases heard in the Re-Entry Court, which is a specialized court that monitors and reviews juveniles recently released from the Rhode Island Training School.
Prosecutors also conduct emergency arraignment, wherein a juvenile has been detained overnight at the Rhode Island Training School with the approval of a Family Court Judge. There were 289 emergency arraignments in 2012.
The Unit continues to be actively involved in the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Project. The initiative works towards reducing reliance on secure confinement without sacrificing public safety. One of the goals is to shift spending from detention to community-based detention alternatives.
In 2011, the General Assembly allowed for electronic monitoring of juveniles as a detention alternative. The program was activated in February 2012. Since then, Juvenile Probation began monitoring an average of 20 to 30 juveniles on the electronic monitoring system at any given time.
With the elevation of Special Assistant Attorney General James Baum, who previously headed up the Office’s Community Prosecution Unit, as chief of the Juvenile Unit, there was an increased effort to combat and prosecute gang-related activity and violence, particularly in urban settings. In 2012, the Office continued to partner with state and federal law enforcement to target and infiltrate specific gangs to disrupt their criminal enterprises.
The cooperative relationship with state and federal law enforcement partners allows rapid sharing of information related to gang activity. In 2012, after a nearly two-year investigation by the Rhode Island Safe Streets Task Force and the Office of Attorney General, several known MS-13 members and associates, including Francisco Bonilla, the known leader of the local MS-13 gang, were arrested and subsequently prosecuted.