ESATHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) — A recent case out of Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court has gained attention because of the judge’s ruling that a young boy be forced to pay restitution.
In 2010, a 10 year old Easthampton boy spray painted – or tagged as it’s called – several houses on John Street.
The graffiti is still visible on Robert Blanchette’s house. He didn’t even know it happened until a neighbor told him.
“I says well they didn’t do mine but as I walked down the road, on the way back, I noticed it,” says Blanchette. “I wasn’t going to do anything about it, but he says ‘file a complaint’, so I did that.”
The court found sufficient evidence for the boy, now 12, to be found delinquent and gave him a year to pay restitution – about $1,300 – something he failed to do.
That violated his probation and once more he went before the judge.
His attorney argued the boy is unable to pay because he’s too young to hold a job.
“If he can’t pay, you can show that at that violation hearing and then the judge shouldn’t violate him,” explained the boy’s attorney Craig Bartolomei. “So in essence, he should make the decision he still can’t pay so I was saying, “Judge this is a 12 year old, these things you suggest aren’t there’”.
But the judge ruled he can pay and can indeed earn money by mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, or even getting a paper route.
Further, he wrote in his decision: “Such an order not only provided an opportunity to build the juvenile’s character and integrity, but also promote his life as a law-abiding citizen”.
But Bartolomei maintains the world of kids having paper routes has changed. In a word…it’s dangerous. “This isn’t the same time as when I was a child, or the judges who I assume are older than I am. People don’t deliver newspapers. I would have trouble sending a 12 year old out to solicit raking jobs and snow shoveling jobs.”
Bartolomei says he’ll now file an appeal with the state Supreme Judicial Court to try and have the ruling reversed.
If the Supreme Judicial Court decides to hear the case, it would more than likely be no sooner than this fall. If they decline, the 12 year old boy will be obligated to pay full restitution to the people he tagged.