DA cracks down on violent teens, charges them as adult

LAS VEGAS - Teenagers arrested for violent crimes is becoming a dangerous trend in and around the Las Vegas valley.  In many instances, the teens are being prosecuted as adults.

Take Richard Newsome: The 17-year-old was charged last week as an adult for the shooting death of 18-year-old Richard Nelson, a former star athlete at Chaparral High School.

The Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson the last few years, his office has filed more and more petitions to prosecute minors as adults.

"More juveniles are committing violent crimes, and more of them are using firearms," Wolfson said.

The violent trend is the reason the Clark County District Attorney's office has decided to go after dangerous teenagers and charge them as adults.

"We have to consider public safety, so we then consider filing for certification which sends the case, if the judge agrees, to the adult system," Said Wolfson.

In 2016, the d-a's office filed 168 petitions for certifications to charge teens as adults.  That's an increase from 88 the previous year.  Out of the 168 petitions, 51 were approved by a judge, and 21 were denied.

The majority of the remaining cases were resolved through plea deals or withdrawn.

Wolfson says, "At the end of the day, at some point, if a juvenile keeps committing crimes and then accelerates to a violent crime we have to consider that we've exhausted all of our services in juvenile court."

Certifications are not needed for some of the most violent offenders because according to state law, teens 16 and older arrested for murder or attempted murder are automatically transferred into the adult system.

That's also the case for teens within the same age group arrested for sexual assault and attempted sexual assault with a prior felony.  The rule applies to crimes where a firearm was used.

"Certainly violent offenses are on the increase, the use of firearm offenses are on the increase," Wolfson said.

Wolfson says cases, where minors are prosecuted as adults, make up a small percentage of the overall caseload, but he said prevention is key.

"I think as a community we need to get together to try and do something about it," Wolfson said.
   
More than 240 minors are in custody in Clark County.  However, there's a fairly new program that aims to rehabilitate troubled teens, so they can avoid the court system all together.
   

 


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