The delinquency case of Antonio, a 13-year-old whose story was told in The Sun July 21, was decided in Baltimore Juvenile Court yesterday after months of inaction.
Antonio, who became involved in drug dealing in East Baltimore at age 12, was permitted to go to his mother's Southwest Baltimore home but assigned an "advocate" from the Baltimore City Advocacy Program. The program is one of several in the city that match teen-agers in trouble with young adults who visit them several times a week and give them intense supervision to try to keep them out of trouble.
In permitting him to go home, Master Kathryn Koshel also legally committed Antonio to the Department of Juvenile Services. Because he is committed, the department has the right to confine him to a juvenile facility without further court action if he breaks his curfew, disobeys his mother or his advocate or otherwise misbehaves.
"You're going to have to decide -- it's your freedom, or your dope-peddling friends," Master Koshel told Antonio. "Think of spending holidays with your family, and then think of spending the holidays in a juvenile facility with a bunch of little hoodlums."
Antonio, who spent most of June and July in juvenile detention facilities, promised to stay away from the Ashland Avenue drug corners where he sold cocaine last year.
Antonio's mother, Denise Harris, 33, said yesterday the juvenile justice system seemed finally to be giving her son the help and supervision she was seeking nearly a year ago when she found her son with vials of cocaine in his pocket and called the police.
Though Antonio was charged at that time, the Police Department held up the paperwork on the case for eight months, during which the boy was arrested six more times for offenses ranging from theft of a dirt bike to carrying a rifle.
His mother said she believes that if the action taken yesterday had swiftly followed Antonio's first arrest, the subsequent arrests might have been avoided.
"I think she did the right thing," Ms. Harris said of Master Koshel's decision. "I wanted him home. But he knows right from wrong, and if he messes up now, he can face the consequences."