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Confinement continues for 9 in bus attack

The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore judge approved yesterday new charges against the nine middle school students accused in the beating of a homeless woman on a city bus and ordered all of the teenagers to remain confined to their homes and out of school.

The additional charges, called a petition in juvenile court, include malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct and assaulting the driver of bus No. 27, on which the confrontation began Dec. 4. The previous charges were destruction of property and aggravated assault.

During the daytime melee, which continued onto the street, the primary victim, Sarah Kreager, 26, suffered two fractured eye sockets, two lacerations to the head and bruises as she was hit and kicked, according to Assistant State's Attorney Dawn Jones.

"These individuals made a choice to participate" in the brawl, Jones said. The defense "talks about their [clients'] needs being met. The need that needs to be addressed today is public safety. And in the interest of public safety, their status should remain the same."

Almost all of the nine defense attorneys representing the students objected to the new charges, and all of them attempted to get their clients released from community detention, which confines the teenagers to their homes and includes electronic monitoring.

Several defense attorneys said their clients' had no previous involvement in the juvenile justice system, complied with the rules and earned top marks while on community detention. Several also added that their clients' needs would be better met by attending school.

But Jones read from some of the respondents' in-school disciplinary, academic and attendance records, which documented numerous absences, suspensions, failing grades and physical attacks on school property.

After citing one of the students for a large number of unexcused absences and "failing every class," Jones said that the respondent and others would be "receiving more education" through at-home tutoring than in school.

The Sun is not identifying the students because they are juveniles. Five of them are 15, and the remaining four are 14. The students must remain at home at least until their adjudicatory hearing, the equivalent of a trial in juvenile court, which is scheduled for Jan. 31.

The timeline is tight for a complex case with nine respondents, prosecutors have said.

And several defense attorneys said that information and documents provided to them by prosecutors, through the process called discovery, contradict the first Maryland Transportation Authority Police report on the incident.

Prosecutors "are going to have major problems with this case," Margaret A. Desonier, an assistant public defender in the juvenile court division, told Young. "The first police report, discovery has shown, is not quite accurate."

Attorney Linda Koban said the report was "written in the heat of the moment" and that other information has been released to attorneys that clears "some of the children."

One attorney tried to begin to argue that his client should be released from community detention, claiming Kreager provoked the fight by spitting on one of the girls accused of participating in the attack.

But Baltimore Circuit Judge David W. Young repeatedly cut off attempts to argue students' innocence and question victims' statements, saying that attorneys should save it for later.

"That's why we have trials," he said.

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