Teens found delinquent in child's burning

Pair poured chemical on playground equipment in Middle River, injuring boy, 3

December 11, 2007|By Jennifer McMenamin

Two teenagers accused of pouring industrial-strength drain cleaner on playground equipment in Middle River were found delinquent yesterday of assaulting a toddler who was badly burned after going down a slide.

Payton Potochney suffered second- and third-degree chemical burns to both legs and his lower back April 14 after going down a slide at a playground at Victory Villa Elementary School. The 3-year-old spent several months at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital and returns to his doctor every few weeks.

The two 17-year-old boys accused of dousing the playground equipment with the acid were tried as juveniles before Baltimore County Circuit Judge Timothy J. Martin. The judge found the teens delinquent yesterday - the juvenile equivalent of a conviction in adult court - of first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, breaking and entering and theft.

Prosecutor Robin S. Coffin asked the judge to commit the teenagers to a juvenile facility.

"The serious nature of this offense actually cries out for it," she said in court. "This is the kind of crime that makes your community feel unsafe - and that was intended."

She also asked Martin to order the boys to pay nearly $10,000 in restitution to reimburse the county for cleaning up the playground and $100,000 in restitution to cover the toddler's medical bills.

Asked by the judge whether she really expected two teenagers to pay such a high amount of restitution, Coffin responded, "Someday, they'll work."

The hearing was cut short, though, after defense attorney Henry J. Wegrocki asked the judge to postpone his decision until previously ordered psychiatric evaluations of the teenagers are finished.

In an interview after the hearing, Wegrocki said he will ask the judge to impose probation and a period of community service on the teenagers. He also expressed disappointment at the delinquency finding on the assault charges.

The toddler's relatives said the case has affected the whole neighborhood.

"These kids have not just changed our lives," said Richard Potochney Sr., the toddler's grandfather. "When people go to the playground, they check the playground before they let their kids anywhere near it."

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