Girl, 15, gets jail in bus assault

Student was involved in 2 earlier attacks, prosecutors report

April 24, 2008|By Melissa Harris and Brent Jones | Melissa Harris and Brent Jones,SUN REPORTERS

The 15-year-old Robert Poole Middle School student whom prosecutors accused of sparking an attack on a city bus passenger in December was sentenced yesterday to a juvenile jail until a judge releases her or she turns 21.

In arguing to send Nakita McDaniels to a secure residential treatment facility, Baltimore prosecutors revealed that the student body vice president had twice before led group assaults on lone girls, one of which ended with the victim stabbed and losing consciousness.

McDaniels was "the person who could have led them to staying on the bus -- she was the vice president of the student government," Circuit Judge David W. Young said. "She chose to lead her troops in another direction.

"There are many types of leaders," the judge added. "There are [leaders] for positive and good, and there are leaders who choose to use their leadership abilities to do wrong. In my heart, based on my belief and my experience, the next person who argues with her may be a homicide victim."

Also yesterday, Young dismissed cases against two of the original nine teens accused in the assault that started over an empty seat aboard a bus in Hampden, spilled out into the street and left Sarah Kreager, 26, with two broken bones around her left eye.

Young ordered another youth, who had admitted her role in the attack before the monthlong trial, to complete the community service he had assigned her. He also chastised the Department of Juvenile Services for not providing her with all of the services he ordered.

Young ordered four other students to complete 50 hours of community service, 30 days of community detention, and violence prevention and mental health treatment.

"Each of them need immediate, intensive treatment and services in order to get them to understand what they did," prosecutor Janet Hankin said. "What I do find continually disturbing in this case is the apparent lack of remorse. ... Even if you take a look at what they said -- that it was self-defense -- they still appear to think that under those circumstances, that what they did isn't wrong."

The hearings cap a long and divisive case fraught with allegations of racism. Students involved accused Kreager's longtime partner, Troy Ennis, of provoking the attack by using a racial slur against McDaniels and ordering Kreager to spit on her. Kreager and Ennis are white. The students are black.

At the hearing, Young told McDaniels to move to the center of the courtroom and face him. Young, who is black and has served as a judge since 1985, told McDaniels that no more than three or four cases among the thousands he has presided over "reduced me to tears like this case."

"I just wonder what has gone so wrong, so wrong," he said. "In our families, in our community, in our churches, in our schools. It has been painful for me. ... I got literally dozens of phone calls. I have received e-mails. I've had people tell me that I'm only picking on these kids because they're black. That `you'd know they did it if you've ever ridden a bus in the city.' I've had people come up to me on the street and had to walk away from them."

Kreager, who has three children and was homeless at the time of the attack, praised Young for his comments. "He couldn't have said it more perfectly," she said. "It's just sad ... the city has become this way. Hopefully, this says to children you're not just going to have a slap on your wrist."

McDaniels showed no emotion as Young spoke and chose not to say anything in court. The Sun does not usually name juveniles accused of crimes, but her name has been public since she filed countercharges in adult court against Kreager, which prosecutors did not pursue.

Crystal Green, McDaniels' guidance counselor, spoke in her defense and asked Young not to separate her from her family.

"I've known Nakita since 2006 when she entered Robert Poole," Green said. "Since then, I've had no problems with Nakita. ... Since she's been at Robert Poole, her grades have gone up. She's vice president of the student government association."

But Green said she did not know McDaniels when she committed the previous assaults. At the time of the Dec. 4 attack on the city bus, McDaniels was on probation with the juvenile court for second-degree assault. According to Delores Quick, a caseworker at the Department of Juvenile Services, McDaniels and her two sisters had "beat up," "stomped" and "cut" another girl with a knife for "talking about" them.

Quick said that McDaniels had completed a six-week anger management program and attended "Healthy Relationships" courses. Restitution to the victim was never paid.

At a previous school, she was suspended after a fight with a girl who "cracked slick," or insulted her. Quick said, however, that she wasn't aware of that incident. Prosecutors showed evidence of at least four school-based fights, from March 1999 to April 2005.

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