On his last day before his September retirement, Howard County Juvenile Master Bernard A. Raum excoriated the state's Department of Juvenile Services for allowing a troubled youth to be discharged from a substance abuse program after three weeks because an insurance company allegedly wouldn't pay for more treatment.
Raum worried that without treatment, the teenager, who had pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, could get into more serious trouble.
Now, it appears that he has.
Jeremi Quinton Lewis, 17, of the 9400 block of Granite Hill in Columbia, has been charged with multiple felonies, including kidnapping, robbery and second-degree assault, in connection with robberies at The Mall in Columbia and the Lake Kittamaqundi waterfront.
"There was no doubt in my mind ... that unless aggressive intervention took place, he'd be in the adult system," Raum said last week.
He called it "a complete and utter failure" of the state Department of Juvenile Services.
LaWanda Edwards, a Juvenile Services spokeswoman, would not comment specifically on the case but said, "The department tries to always make sure that children receive the proper treatment, regardless of their circumstances."
Lewis, who is being held at the Howard County Detention Center, is scheduled for trial in the spring in Howard County Circuit Court. He was charged as an adult because of the seriousness of the crimes that he is accused of committing, said T. Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for the Howard state's attorney's office.
Lewis' attorney is requesting that the case be moved to juvenile court, Kirwan said.
According to charging documents, on Oct. 29, Lewis grabbed two people about 9:30 p.m. in The Mall in Columbia near Bank of America, implied he had a knife and forced them outside, where the victims noticed two other suspects.
Lewis demanded the victims empty their pockets, documents say. The victims gave the others a baseball cap, leather wallet, keys, a gold chain with a cross pendant and $17.
Lewis told the victims they hadn't given enough and forced one of them back into the mall toward the Bank of America ATM to withdraw more money, according to charging documents.
At the ATM, the victim said he had only $4 in his account, and Lewis then tried to force him back outside the mall when he broke free in JC Penney and alerted an employee that he had been robbed, the documents state.
Police say Lewis and the two others fled to the Lake Kittamaqundi waterfront, where they are accused of robbing five people.
The three ran toward the Route 29 footbridge, where a police officer was waiting for them on the other side, according to charging documents.
The three turned around to head back toward the lakefront and saw another officer waiting, who ordered them to the ground, documents say. As the officer approached them, Lewis lunged toward her, hit her face and fled, according to charging documents.
Another officer began to approach Lewis and saw him throw bags of marijuana on the ground, the documents state. The officer arrested Lewis.
One of the other suspects, a 14-year-old boy, was arrested on the footbridge. The third suspect apparently escaped.
Raum said Lewis' case is a "classic example of the [Juvenile Services] Department refusing to provide the treatment that this particular child desperately needed."
Raum had attempted to ensure Lewis received the necessary treatment by ordering him to a group home after he pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary in 2002.
When Lewis ran away from the home, Raum ordered in March that he be detained at the Alfred D. Noyes Children's Center in Rockville while the state found a suitable placement for him.
The state then sent Lewis to Mountain Manor Treatment Center, a residential drug treatment facility in Baltimore.
A Mountain Manor counselor said the discharge date was determined by managed-care provider Amerigroup Corp. when the boy was first admitted, resulting in a 24-day stay that ended in May.
In September, Raum alleged that Juvenile Services had lied to him at an earlier hearing about the youth, claiming that it was in the child's best interest to leave the program when Amerigroup, which is based in Virginia, actually made the decision.