Teens charged in jail assault

Six accused in beating juvenile center trainee

April 29, 2008|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

For more than an hour they listened to stories about what it felt like to be a victim. A woman talked about her husband's brutal beating. Someone else tearfully recounted her brother-in-law's murder.

The teenage offenders inside the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center didn't participate, responding with silence and the occasional sneer. Then, hours after the counseling session ended, some of them attacked an employee -- hurting him so badly that he needed a neck brace and 14 staples to the back of the head.

Yesterday, six teenagers were charged as adults in the April 17 attack. They were being held last night at the Central Booking and Intake Facility.

Their juvenile records show that the two 16-year-olds and four 17-year-olds have amassed dozens of arrests and have a record of violence. They were considered some of the toughest youths at the justice center, according to Department of Juvenile Services officials.

The residential adviser trainee they are accused of assaulting, Gary Delvalle, had been on the job about a month, a DJS spokeswoman said. He has not returned to work.

The incident underscores problems at a facility that youth advocates say is dangerous and chronically overcrowded. DJS Secretary Donald W. DeVore said reform there is a major priority.

In the first three months of this year, there have been 167 youth-on-youth assaults and 30 youth-on-staff assaults at the justice center, up about 50 percent from the same period last year, according to a recent report from the state's independent juvenile justice monitor. The jail yesterday was at capacity with 144 youths.

Marlana Valdez, director of the Maryland Attorney General's juvenile justice monitoring unit, said yesterday that she is "very concerned" that her office did not learn about the incident, which occurred 11 days ago.

"We have an agreement with the department that they contact us when a critical incident occurs," she said.

On the day of the assault, three groups of young offenders participated in a victim's awareness session -- something DeVore has said was among his efforts to prevent violence at the justice center.

DJS officials said the morning and evening sessions went well, but the afternoon session, which a Sun reporter attended, was not as productive.

Sitting in a circle in the justice center's gymnasium were about a dozen youths and about a dozen DJS employees, outside counselors and mediators. Each person was asked to share an experience of being a victim. With only one or two exceptions, the youths stayed silent, some saying "no comment" or "pass" when it came their turn.

Explaining the lack of involvement, DJS officials later said those youths were some of the hardest to reach.

The teens filed out of the gymnasium by about 3 p.m., and returned to their "pod," where Delvalle and two other staff members kept watch over them, according to charging documents.

Delvalle later told investigators the youths were "challenging staff all day and were put out of class at school for the behavior," charging documents state. He said they were "talking and being disruptive" as he was checking on them.

Video surveillance captures much of what happened at about 4:30 p.m., according to the charging documents:

Gary Wilson, 17, threw a brush at Delvalle, and he picked it up and threw it back toward Wilson and other youths. It smashed against a wall. Eugene Mickey, 17, and others came toward Delvalle and took swings at him.

Then, Robert Bond, 17, threw a chair at Delvalle. Other staff members tried to intervene. Corey Parker, 16, threw a second chair. Brandon Carlton, 16, threw a third chair. And Dashon Stewart, 17, threw a fourth chair -- the one that police say struck Delvalle in the head, dropping him to the floor.

While he was down, police say, Stewart and Mickey punched him and Bond kicked him. Delvalle stood up after about 30 seconds, the charging documents say.

He was taken by ambulance to the Johns Hopkins Hospital with a laceration to the back of his head, a cervical spine fracture, a knot on his forehead, soreness above his right eye and a bruise on his left forearm, charging documents state.

Delvalle could not be reached yesterday.

Mickey and Carlton did not speak to the police, but other youths gave their accounts, the charging documents state. Several said the attack began when Delvalle threw a brush at them.

DJS spokeswoman Tammy Brown said all staff are trained in the first month of their employment on "de-escalation techniques." She said that throwing an object "clearly goes against" that, though she declined to comment specifically on the incident.

Brown, DeVore and other DJS administrators have attempted to address violence and other problems at the justice center by personally mentoring youths who are considered the most difficult. Some of the teenagers accused in the attack were among the mentees.

Brown said the mentees are "pending placement," meaning they have been found the equivalent of guilty in juvenile court and are awaiting word on whether a facility will take them.

Maryland has few options for out-of-home placement of juvenile offenders. DeVore has said he plans to build four 48-bed facilities in the coming years. Until then, some juveniles are staying longer at the justice center, which was not intended as a long-term facility. Others are sent to an out-of-state placement or released.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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