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In re Ricardo C.

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

October 16, 2013

In re Ricardo C., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
RICARDO C., Defendant and Respondent.

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County, Ct. No. RIJ1200870 Roger A. Luebs, Judge.

Paul E. Zellerbach, District Attorney, Emily Hanks, Deputy District Attorney, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Stephanie M. Adraktas, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

McKINSTER J.

The People filed a petition in the juvenile court, alleging that Ricardo C. (minor), a minor, had committed the offenses of attempted robbery and making criminal threats, as well as a number of other offenses. Pursuant to a negotiated agreement, minor agreed to admit the attempted robbery and criminal threats allegations, and the remaining allegations would be dismissed. Part of the stipulated disposition was that minor would be placed in the Youthful Offender Program (YOP) at the Indio Juvenile Hall. At the hearing, however, the juvenile court ordered a different, less restrictive placement. The People appeal, contending that the disposition in contravention of the negotiated agreement was an unlawful order. We reverse.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

According to the detention hearing report, an eighth grade student, B.D., was walking home from school on April 15, 2012, with some friends. B.D. was playing with a can of Silly String, when minor, going in the opposite direction, came riding by on his skateboard. B.D. accidentally sprayed some of the Silly String on minor. Minor hopped off his skateboard, approached B.D., and demanded that he give him the can of Silly String. B.D. apologized to minor, and handed him the can of Silly String, saying, “Here, you can have it.” Minor threw the can onto the ground and demanded that B.D. give him his cell phone. B.D. said no, but minor repeated his demand for the cell phone. B.D. again refused. Minor then punched B.D. in the face several times, knocking him to the ground. Minor kicked B.D. in the back before running away. B.D. and his mother reported the matter to the school resource officer at minor’s high school. When the school resource officer questioned minor about the incident, minor admitted he had punched the victim, saying, “Oh yea[h], that kid pissed me off.”

A month later, on May 14, 2012, minor took the cell phone of a classmate, J.F., from his desk at school. J.F. asked minor to give his phone back, but minor laughed at him and refused. Minor ran off campus and did not return to school for the next two days. J.F. made a report to the police about the stolen phone.

On August 15, 2012, the People filed a petition in juvenile court, charging minor with attempted robbery of B.D., assault on B.D., receiving stolen property (J.F.’s cell phone), and theft of the cell phone (mistakenly alleged to be the property of B.D.). About a week after the petition was filed, minor went to J.F.’s residence to confront him about reporting the stolen phone. Minor said, “If I end up going to juvenile hall because you are pressing charges, I’m going to fuck you up!” J.F. denied pressing charges, but minor retorted, “You are lying, I know it’s you, I just want to get one good hit in!” Minor clubbed J.F. on the side of the head with a closed fist. Minor left when J.F.’s mother threatened to call police. When minor was later taken into custody, he admitted finding out where J.F. lived so he could confront him about “ruining [my] life” by pressing charges. Minor stated that he hit J.F. because he wanted him to admit that he was the one pressing charges against him.

After the confrontation with J.F., the People filed another petition on August 27, 2012, alleging that minor had committed the offenses of attempting to dissuade a witness, assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, and two counts of making criminal threats against both J.F. and J.F.’s mother.

In September 2012, the parties appeared in court, and reached a settlement. When defense counsel described the agreement to the juvenile court, he stated, “There is a disposition reached in this matter wherein minor will enter admissions in one petition [to the attempted robbery].... In the other petition he is going to be admitting [one of the criminal threats allegations]. Remaining counts in both petitions will be dismissed with comment and restitution. He will be determined a ward and placed at YOP and refer it out for dispositional report.” The court stated that it found “that disposition to be a reasonable one. I suppose after reading the report I might take another view, but at this point anyway it seems to be a reasonable approach....”

In taking the admissions from minor, the court admonished him, “Do you realize if you tell me these allegations from these two Paragraphs [sic] are true, then a judge could put you in a state or county facility including a locked facility like juvenile hall or the Youthful Offender Program facility in Indio for up to three years, six months. Do you understand that?” Minor replied that he did understand. The court fixed the criminal threats charge as a felony rather than a misdemeanor. “The attempt[ed] robbery is, of course, a felony. In terms of disposition the parties have agreed that the minor is going to be declared a ward and be committed to a placement in the Youth Offender Program in Indio.” The court referred the matter to the probation department for a report to recommend “complete, appropriate dispositional terms” for minor. The court set a hearing to review the report, and advised the parties, “if upon reviewing the report I find something inappropriate about the disposition[, ] the minor because of the agreed upon terms of his admissions today could withdraw his admission, but I don’t expect that to happen. Otherwise he is going to live with whatever disposition I give him.”

The probation department prepared a dispositional report in advance of the hearing. The interagency placement screening committee that reviewed minor’s case concluded that out-of-home placement was necessary. Minor needed services to address anger issues, substance abuse issues, negative peer associations (gang contacts), grief counseling, and academic deficits. Minor’s mother was “too complacent” about minor’s behavior to supervise him adequately under one of the programs considered.

Several features of minor’s case were concerning. He brutally attacked a younger child over a petty matter: accidentally being sprayed with Silly String. When a petition was filed, describing the theft of a classmate’s cell phone, minor purposely sought out the victim’s address, went to his home, threatened the victim and his mother, and physically struck the victim in retaliation for reporting the crime. Minor’s general anger issues had led to several fights, which resulted in disciplinary actions at school. Minor was not remorseful, and refused to apologize to the victims. He had other difficulties, including substance abuse, poor school attendance, and poor ...


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