FRESNO — A judge on Thursday decided to send a 12-year-old Fresno boy accused of helping beat and rob a World War II veteran to a rehabilitation program instead of a juvenile correctional facility.
Superior Court Judge James Kelley said the boy should be admitted to the rehabilitation program for pre-adolescents at the Juvenile Justice Campus for a year instead of a “kid prison,” the Fresno Bee reported (http://bit.ly/1chEmzJ).
The boy and two 15-year-olds broke into the home of Josef Martin, 92, in October, authorities said. The group held Martin at gunpoint, struck him in the face and threw him in a closet as they stole jewelry and cash, authorities said.
Martin’s daughter, JoAnn Hamman, who gasped when the boy was brought into the courtroom, thought the judge’s decision was too lenient.
“A gentleman who was very strong is now shaky mentally,” she told the judge on behalf of her father. “This man went through World War II … only to be beaten at 92 when he’s fought for his country, for the freedom of this trial as well as ours, and for this to happen? No, sir. This is an animal, as far as I am concerned.”
Prosecutors said the boy was a suspect in previous crimes but never charged.
The boy’s lawyer, Rick Horowitz, who choked up as he spoke on behalf of his client, believes the boy can change for the better and is “very much the product of the environment he’s been exposed to.” He said the boy was “more or less left to his own devices for many years.”
One of the 15-year-olds has appeared in juvenile court, while no charges have been filed against the other as of Dec. 4, the most recent court records available.
As Kelley, the judge, read his decision to the court, the barely 4-foot boy wiped his eyes with a wad of tissues.
Kelley added the home-invasion robbery was troubling because the youths could have chosen not to attack Martin.
“Somebody made the decision to take it a step further and to degrade this man in his own home and to leave him lying on the floor of his own home, perhaps never to get up,” Kelley said.