People throw around the term "bullying" pretty loosely these days, but the actions of two teenage girls in Maryland are such a horrific example of bullying that the girls have been charged with multiple crimes.
A 17-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl are charged with crimes including first degree assault, second degree assault, and child pornography in their attacks against a 16-year-old autistic boy that attended their school.
Police say the girls forced the boy at knife-point to perform sex acts, including sex acts with animals, and that they kicked him in the groin, dragged him by his hair, and forced him to walk on thin ice across a frozen pond, never helping him out when he fell in multiple times.
As teens do, they recorded their abuse of the boy on their cell phones. The mother of the victim says that her son is high-functioning, but that his autism renders him unable to understand social norms or relationships. She told reporters that her son is confused by the police involvement and thinks the girls were his friends, and that they were "just playing around."
The victim's mother says that he believes the younger girl is his girlfriend, and that he has spent a significant amount of his savings on her. Police became aware of the assaults after someone saw the girls' cellphone recordings of the boy's abuse and reported the acts.
The 17-year-old girl has been charged as an adult; the 15-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile. When news of the girls' alleged crimes broke, many people wondered why both girls were not charged as adults. Because both teens apparently had equal culpability, and because they were charged with the same offenses, many people believe that they should be held to the same standard.
The answer likely lies within the state's statutes. In general, states explicitly define the circumstances under which a minor may be tried as an adult. In Oklahoma, a minor is only charged as an adult for first degree murder. In the case of first degree murder, a minor aged 15, 16, or 17 will be tried as an adult. Juveniles aged 13 and 14 may either be tried as adults or certified as youthful offenders.
The Oklahoma Youthful Offender Act provides a middle ground between being adjudicated delinquent and being charged as an adult. It allows for harsher punishment of criminal offenses than those meted for juvenile delinquents, but it offers opportunity for rehabilitation that would not be provided by the adult system.
While a juvenile delinquent is generally released from a juvenile facility near his or her 18th birthday, a youthful offender may be released or may be transferred to an adult facility. If certified as youthful offenders, 13 and 14-year-olds charged with first degree murder will escape adult charges. The crimes for which 15, 16, and 17-year-olds may be charged as youthful offenders vary depending upon the age of the defendant: 15, 16, or 17 Years Old
- Second Degree Murder
- First Degree Manslaughter
- Shooting with Intent to Kill
- Using a Vehicle to Facilitate the Discharge of a Firearm
- Assault and Battery with a Deadly Weapon
- Armed Robbery
- First Degree Robbery (or attempted)
- First Degree Rape (or attempted)
- Rape by Instrumentation (or attempted)
- Forcible Sodomy
- Lewd Molestation
- First Degree Arson (or attempted)
16 or 17 Years Old
- First Degree Burglary (or attempted)
- Battery or Assault and Battery on a state employee or contractor while in the custody or supervision of the Office of Juvenile Affairs
- Aggravated Assault and Battery of a Police Officer
- Intimidating a Witness
- Drug Trafficking
- Drug Manufacturing
- Residential Second Degree Burglary as a third or subsequent burglary offense
- Second Degree Rape
- Using a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony
Based on the reports in the Maryland case, if the girls had been accused of such crimes in Oklahoma, neither would have been charged as an adult; however, both would likely have been charged as youthful offenders.
For more information go to the Phillips & Associates sexual assault page.