The Nine Little Dears from Robert Poole Middle School accused in the attack on Sarah Kreager and others aboard a Maryland Transit Administration bus in early December were arraigned in juvenile court yesterday.
Now before lawyers for any of the Nine Little Dears start protesting, I have to make it clear that not one defense attorney used the term "little dear." They did maintain that their clients are innocent - as they well might be - and that the students should be released from home monitoring. The defense attorneys also said they had problems with additional charges being filed against their clients.
In short, the defense attorneys acted like, well, defense attorneys. You can't fault them for that.
So the term "Nine Little Dears" didn't come from any of them. It's my term, and it doesn't just apply to the accused in the Sarah Kreager case. We have in Baltimore what might be called a "little dear" approach to juvenile justice.
There are no "bad" kids in Baltimore, just misunderstood and misguided poor little dears. The little dears are not to be punished for their offenses, no matter how serious. They're to be rehabilitated.
There was nothing in the language used yesterday in Judge David W. Young's courtroom on the third floor of the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center to indicate that we have anything other than a "poor little dear" approach to juvenile justice in this town.
The accused in juvenile courts are not called "defendants." They're referred to as "respondents."
Their lawyers don't enter pleas of "not guilty" for them. They entered pleas of "general denial." A poor little dear can never, never, never be found guilty in a Baltimore juvenile court. "Guilty" is such an ugly word, carrying all kinds of stigma and opprobrium. Such a word is not fitting of one of Baltimore's poor little dears.
So when a juvenile offender is found to have committed a crime - like, say, beating and kicking a woman senseless, and severely enough to break the bones in her eye sockets - we don't say he or she is guilty.
We say the facts were sustained.
Yesterday, most of the defense attorneys were in poor-little-dear mode, with some even insisting that the media refrain from mentioning their clients' names.
"I want to remind the press that juvenile hearings are confidential," Young said after the request. He ordered any reporters present not to print the names of the juvenile defendants. Oops, my bad.
Young also said we weren't to take pictures of the respondents or show them on television cameras, either.
Y'all got that? The building from which Young issued this ruling was paid for with your tax dollars. Your tax dollars pay the salary of everyone who works in the building. You are the ones who pony up every tax dollar Maryland lawmakers hose you for to fund what's laughingly called the juvenile justice system in this state.
From where I sit, that makes you entitled to know everything that goes on in a juvenile court hearing. Yes, and that includes the names of the juvenile offenders. You're entitled to know everything from their names to when a light bulb breaks to when a toilet backs up.
Why? Because you paid for the right to know.
Neither Young nor the attorneys for the Nine Little Dears are responsible for this; Young was only following Maryland law, one passed by do-gooder legislators who need some stern lessons about when to stop doing good. But I assure Young and the attorneys present that I have no interest whatsoever in the names of their clients.
I am interested in the name of the fourth victim on that MTA bus, one whom we know only as "elderly white guy."
We should thank Assistant State's Attorney Dawn Jones for reminding us that Kreager wasn't the only victim in the attack.
"This involves a brutal attack on three victims," Jones told Young in arguing why the respondents should remain under home detention. Jones mentioned Kreager, her boyfriend, Troy Ennis, and the bus driver.
The "elderly white guy" is the man the bus driver was trying to protect; both also were attacked. But you've read or heard little about either in subsequent news reports. In several news articles, defense attorneys have focused their attention on Kreager, who they say provoked the attack by spitting on and punching one of the accused girls.
A couple of attorneys tried that tactic yesterday, but Young put the kibosh on it pretty quickly.
No one seems to know who the elderly white guy is. But one thing is certain.
That's one name defense lawyers in this case really don't want the media to release.