Two of the five African American teenagers arrested in connection with the June 9 Prescott Station MAX assault will be tried as adults.
Angela Dow and Ti'yana Clay, both 15, were indicted by a grand jury on second-degree robbery charges – Measure 11 crimes that can only be tried in adult court.
The two are also facing charges of third-degree assault, second-degree assault, interfering with public transportation, recklessly endangering another person and first-degree intimidation. They pleaded not guilty.
Four of the teens were arrested shortly after an altercation took place between them and a 28-year-old White woman from Vancouver. The woman allegedly tried to intervene as the teens were harassing an older woman, who had asked them to "tone down their act," according to news reports.
News reports said the alleged victim told the teenagers, "I don't care what color you are, if I want you out of my face, I'd tell you to get out of my face."
The woman told police the teens then started punching her and one of them stole her purse, while yelling racial epithets. The fifth teen was arrested after he allegedly robbed another teen at gunpoint several days later.
The three teens not named are all under the age of 15 and will have their cases referred to juvenile court. Oregon law says that anyone over the age of 15 who is indicted on a Measure 11 crime is automatically referred to adult court.
Prosecutor John Copic said grand jurors had several charges amongst which to choose. If the pair is convicted, they face a mandatory minimum of 70 months behind bars. Copic said a plea deal would be up to the defendants, who do not yet have lawyers. He said their treatment is not unusual.
"Everyone gets treated the same way," he said.
In the event of a plea bargain, a Measure 11 committee would determine an appropriate sentence based on the crime, a defendant's criminal history, education, age and other factors.
The district attorney's office will also talk with the victim, whose name has not been released, who Copic says is "not a vindictive person," based, he said, upon his interviews.
The next hearing for the teens is scheduled for July 31.
Crime on TriMet
Despite the fear that riding MAX or bus is getting unsafe, crime reports involving TriMet indicate the light rail system is actually safer than it was a year ago.
From January through April of 2007, there were a total of 20 aggravated assaults; the same period during 2008 saw 12 – equal to .0131 assaults per 100,000 rides.
Sensationalistic crime coverage also seems to bring out the worst in people – at least on the Internet. Although a few people spent time to actually ruminate about the reasons and solutions to crime, news blogs are full of finger pointing, thinly disguised racism and "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality. Not to mention poor spelling and grammar.
"Grandpaw45" posted on the Portland Tribune's website: "its time we arm ourselves and take back this city from the idiots.any law abididng person can get a cwp. we don't have to give this city to the little idiots …"
Some others put the blame on fellow passengers: "While the harrassment an the assault were taking place, why were the other riders looking the other way? A max train full of cowards" wrote Adamz from the same site.