DA wants two Basalt boys tried as adults
EAGLE, Colo. – The Eagle County District Attorney’s Office will attempt to convince a judge that two Basalt juveniles accused of allegedly conspiring to kidnap and murder another youth should be charged as adults.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said Friday his office is working on motions that a judge will consider in a “transfer hearing” to see if the cases should be moved from juvenile court to criminal District Court. The office will ask a judge on May 25, during another court matter tied to the cases, to set the transfer hearings, he said.
A 15-year-old and a 17-year-old are facing charges in the alleged plot. The 17-year-old was arrested April 25 for conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, both felonies. The 15-year-old is in custody for an alleged probation violation and will face the same charges, authorities said.
“We will put on evidence that these people should be charged as adults,” Hurlbert said.
He wouldn’t discuss the specific factors that led to his office’s conclusion. The severity of the alleged crimes is typically examined in transfer hearings, he said. If a person has a prior criminal record, that would be weighed, as well, Hurlbert said.
A Colorado law signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper last month removed the power of prosecutors to charge 14- and 15-year-olds as adults without transfer hearings. Juveniles ages 16 and 17 can be charged without the hearing. Hurlbert said his office will ask for transfer hearings on both boys.
The younger of the two allegedly prepared the kidnapping and murder plan, Hurlbert said.
“The older (suspect) doesn’t have as much culpability,” he said.
Ultimately, his office wants a judge to decide if both juveniles should be tried as adults.
Basalt police said the 15-year-old confessed to working for four weeks on a plan to lure another youth to Arbaney Park on some unspecified night. The suspect and three friends allegedly planned to intimidate the targeted youth with a replica handgun and beat him with baseball bats in an ambush, according to police. Once the young man was subdued, the suspects planned to bind him with duct tape and haul him off to the woods near Ruedi Reservoir and leave him to starve, police said, based on the 15-year-old’s alleged confession.
The 15-year-old juvenile suspect “admitted he wanted the victim to suffer,” police said in a statement. The boy allegedly was upset with the intended victim over drug dealing and a relationship with a juvenile girl, according to police.
The 15-year-old suspect was taken into custody for an alleged probation violation April 18. One week later, Basalt police obtained an arrest warrant for the 17-year-old and took him into custody with the help of the Carbondale Police Department. Basalt police investigators said the 17-year-old “was pretty active in the plot.”
Juveniles aren’t identified by officials in the law enforcement or court systems.
Two other Basalt teens were allegedly involved in the plot to a lesser degree. The Basalt Police Department is further investigating their role.
Basalt High School officials stressed that only one of the four boys was enrolled in the school, and that was only for a very short time.
The plot was foiled when the parents of some of the boys found maps detailing an activity in Arbaney Park that they suspected was a drug deal. They turned information over the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, which shared it with Basalt Police Department. Investigators unveiled the alleged kidnapping and murder plot.
The decision on whether the two suspects in custody are tried as juveniles or adults has major implications for them. Hurlbert said in a prior interview that if they are convicted in juvenile court, they could be sentenced to up to two years in a juvenile facility on each count.
If they are tried and convicted as adults, they could be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and 16 years for conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping, Hurlbert said.
One option would be sentencing to Youthful Offenders Service, where they would spend six to seven years in rehabilitation programs, Hurlbert said. The prison sentences are suspended if the youth successfully complete the program.
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