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05-03-2007, 03:36 AM
Teens not detained despite multiple theft charges


NORTH PORT -- Two teenagers who are accused of committing a total of 27 felonies stemming from a rash of vehicle burglaries in North Port Estates are not in custody because of what police call a loophole in the state's juvenile justice system.

The teens, 17 and 18, allegedly confessed to the crimes and their parents have offered to arrange for them to turn themselves in.

But the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice won't take them, police say, because of the way the state tallies who deserves to be detained prior to trial based on a complex point system that considers criminal history, the severity of the crime and dozens of other factors.

Because they would only be arrested once -- even for a slew of felonies -- Michael Henderson and Kyle Ralston would not rack up enough points with the state to be detained, a fact that frustrates local police.

Eventually, the teens will go before a judge, and prosecutors will decide if they should be tried as adults.

In the meantime, North Port Detective Christopher Morales said the Department of Juvenile Justice told him if he wanted the teens detained instead of released back to their parents, he would have to trick the system by arresting them for one of the counts now, waiting, and then arresting them on the other counts.

Morales said it is particularly frustrating because the number of felonies each faces would result in bail being set at more than $70,000 for an adult.

Henderson, of Englewood, faces seven counts of burglary of a conveyance, four counts of grand theft and three counts of petit theft. Neither he nor his parents could be reached for comment.

Ralston, of Charlotte county, faces 10 counts of burglary of a conveyance, six counts of grand theft and four counts of petit theft. A woman who answered the phone at his house declined to comment.

Morales said neither teen is enrolled in school. He said the suspects said they were stealing the items to pay for drugs.

Last modified: May 02. 2007 12:00

05-05-2007, 08:59 AM
Our wonderful Criminal Justice System for juveniles in action!