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Monday, July 16, 2012

Cabbagetown robbery and kidnapping suspect's fate TBD

On Friday, Atlanta police charged one of three suspects wanted in connection with a high-profile robbery and kidnapping that went down in Cabbagetown just before the Fourth — but the severity of the charges and just how much time the kid could spend in jail are still up in the air.

Parents of the 15-year-old suspect dropped him at the local police precinct Thursday night after police released ATM surveillance footage of a young man wearing a “don’t sweat my swag” t-shirt. Now, sitting in juvenile detention, the high schooler faces multiple felonies for robbery and kidnapping, according to APD.

The thing is, the kid could end up with a maximum of five years in juvenile detention, or a minimum of 10 years in big-boy prison depending on how the case is handled.

Under a Georgia law little known outside of criminal justice circles, juveniles as young as 13 who commit certain crimes — armed robbery included — are automatically charged as adults. Senate Bill 440, circa 1994, was enacted to toughen sentencing guidelines for young offenders who committed the most heinous of crimes: murder, rape, armed robbery (with a firearm), aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and voluntary manslaughter.

If convicted of one of the “seven deadly sin” crimes (as the offenses covered by SB 440 are more commonly known) a sister bill kicks in imposing a minimum 10-year sentence without the possibility of parole.

Even though the robber is being held in a juvenile facility, it doesn’t mean he won’t be charged as an adult. That’s a call the Fulton County District Attorney’s office will have to make in the coming days.

The way the law is set up, the 15-year-old automatically faces adult charges, but the DA makes the final decision to prosecute in Superior Court, or send the case to the juvenile system.

Passed amid a national surge to crackdown on juvenile crime following spikes in the early 1990’s, the law has come under increased scrutiny in recent years partly due to substantial research surrounding juvenile brain development and statistics showing juveniles tried as adults reoffend at a greater rate than peers in the juvenile system.

Amendments to SB 440 were included in last year’s juvenile code rewrite, which failed to pass largely due to budgeting concerns. A similar rewrite is expected during the 2013 legislative session year, and SB 440 will likely be included again.

Should the kid be charged as an adult or do his time in little-tike lock-up?

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