By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
October 11, 2006
The 11th and final case against a Hood River Valley High School student involved in a “birthday hazing” that severely injured the teenage victim was legally resolved on Monday.
Ruben Mendoza Uvalle, 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree Attempted Assault, a Class C felony. He was the sixth teenager to chance a visit to adult court that could have landed him in prison for 70 months.
However, Prosecutor Carrie Rasmussen chose not to take a hard line on the students choosing that route. Instead of going to trial, she granted Uvalle and his peers a final opportunity to plead down to a lesser charge. In addition to Uvalle, the following individuals took her up on that offer: Cruz Bolanos Guzman, 18, Armando Luz Barbosa, 17, Francisco Javier Campos-Chavarria, 17, Herman Cornejo, 17, and Juan Quintana Rogue, 17.
Four teens admitted guilt in juvenile court to the May 25 beating of a 16-year-old male peer. A grand jury dismissed the charges against another person.
Although the sentences of those tried in adult and juvenile court varied slightly, Rasmussen said there were common denominators. For example, all of the youth were ordered by Judge Donald Hull to perform 120 hours of community service, obtain some type of anger management counseling, and have his/her actions closely monitored for 24 months.
They will all pay almost $4,000 to cover the 16-year-old victim’s medical bills. All of the involved parties have been ordered to stay away from each other and have no direct contact with either the victim or his family. Each offender also has to write an essay about how he/she could have handled the situation differently.
“Do you understand the seriousness of the attack? You came close to taking someone’s life,” said Hull to Uvalle at the Oct. 9 hearing. “This is not a light matter; it’s a very serious matter. So, the next time I hope you think before you act.”
In retrospect, Rasmussen wishes that she had included the reading of Lord of the Flies by William Golding as a court condition. She said that text clearly outlines that “good kids can go bad when they act as a group.” She said regardless of whether the 10 offenders participated in the actual beating of the victim, or just cheered from the sidelines, they were responsible for the outcome.
“Many of these juveniles came from very good families and acted in a manner that was uncharacteristic of each as an individual,” she said. “It’s almost as if the group itself became an individual with an amazing strength that caused serious consequences.”
Ramussen read a statement written by the victim’s mother to Uvalle, as she had all of the other offenders. It outlined how his life was saved by a five-hour emergency surgery to repair internal damages, and how emaciated he had become from subsisting on a mostly liquid diet — with his future health uncertain.
According to reports, the group of Latino students had intended the incident as a “cultural rite of passage.” However, what began as a few light-hearted punches to celebrate a birthday quickly got out of hand.