Teenager pleads guilty in HRV ‘hazing’ assault

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

July 5, 2006

A Hood River Valley High School student pleaded guilty last week to participation in a “birthday hazing” that left the 16-year-old victim with major injuries.

The first of 11 teenage suspects, who is also 16, accepted a conviction for second-degree assault at the June 27 hearing.

Judge Donald Hull directed the juvenile to spend 24 months on probation. He was given a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. while on probation unless accompanied by his parents. That condition can be modified by a probation officer if deemed necessary.

In addition, the teen was ordered to write a letter of apology to the victim that is approved by his probation officer. He will perform 120 hours of community service and pay a share of the victim’s medical bills.

His sentence also includes attendance at a class about how choices are tied to consequences. He then has to write a statement about what different choices he might have made in the situation and how the consequences might have been different.

He and 10 other Hispanic students — who are also expected to plead guilty — told investigators the incident had been intended as a Latino rite of passage.

On May 25, the group gathered before classes began in the wrestling room of the high school. Ever since they were in middle school, they had reportedly been punching each other as a birthday celebration.

Although the victim did not appear to have serious injuries the remainder of that school day, he exhibited signs of serious physical distress that evening.

His parents took him to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital for an examination. Physicians then determined that he needed emergency surgery to repair major internal injuries.

According to reports, the victim is now at home recovering from his wounds.

Hood River County District Attorney John Sewell decided to take a tough stand on the incident. He charged all of the involved youth with a felony crime and had deputies arrest some of them at school and others at home.

The 10 juveniles and Cruz Bolanos Guzman, 18, were offered a plea deal for the lesser charge of third-degree assault. They face penalties for a second-degree crime if they proceed to trial. That could bring a mandatory Measure 11 sentence of 70 months in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for all but the two 14-year-olds.

All of the remaining suspects are now out of jail but are on house arrest until their individual cases have been resolved. They will all make court appearances to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on either July 10 or 17.

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