State

Attack reported on boy in Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall cell

Plastic "boat" beds like the one shown on the floor of a cell in a  living unit at the Stanislaus County juvenile hall help provide a temporary solution to overcrowding at the facility on Blue Gum Ave. in Modesto. Photographed on Tuesday August 7, 2007  Ted Benson/The Modesto B
Plastic "boat" beds like the one shown on the floor of a cell in a living unit at the Stanislaus County juvenile hall help provide a temporary solution to overcrowding at the facility on Blue Gum Ave. in Modesto. Photographed on Tuesday August 7, 2007 Ted Benson/The Modesto B Modesto Bee

Two teenagers have been accused of sexually assaulting another teen at the Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall, and the victim's family says authorities failed to keep their son safe.

The 17-year-old boy said he was sexually assaulted sometime between 10:30 p.m. and midnight Friday, according to Modesto police. The boy's family said he was attacked in his cell, but police declined to confirm that.

The boy was taken by police to a Modesto area hospital to be evaluated after the attack was reported, his family said. Police also wouldn't confirm this or comment on any medical findings.

The boy's father said his wife called Juvenile Hall several times late last week before the incident, asking that her son be moved to another cell. The father also said his son asked staff that he be moved because he did not feel safe.

"They should have had him in protective custody before it happened and not after," the father said. "My son did not want to go back to that cell."

The two defendants -- ages 14 and 15 -- are each charged with two counts of sodomy. They appeared in Juvenile Court on Wednesday, and their attorneys denied the allegations. The boys are scheduled to be in Juvenile Court on Friday for a pretrial hearing.

The Bee is not identifying the 17-year-old and his family because the victim is a minor. They live in Stanislaus County.

The two teens charged in the attack are Modesto residents. They were identified in court by the first names and the first letter of their last names.

The county's chief probation officer said he could not comment on the case or the allegations made by the 17-year-old and his family. The Probation Department operates Juvenile Hall.

"I wish I could," Jerry Powers said. "In respect to the specifics of the case, you will need to talk to the district attorney's office. As far as responding to the allegations by the family or the minor, it's not appropriate for me to comment."

The prosecutor in the case declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The two boys charged in the assault remain at Juvenile Hall. The victim has been released to his mother and is under house arrest, according to the father.

Modesto police Lt. Chris Fuzie said Juvenile Hall reported the incident to police at 2:54 p.m. Saturday. He declined to say where in Juvenile Hall the attack occurred.

The boy's father said his son waited to report the incident until he felt safe. Powers -- speaking in general -- said Juvenile Hall staff notifies police as soon as they are aware of an incident.

The father of the 17-year-old said he and his wife wanted their son placed in Juvenile Hall for his own protection. The father said his son, who is on probation, had been skipping school and breaking curfew. "He was running the streets and not coming home," the father said.

He said the boy's probation officer recommended having the son picked up and placed in Juvenile Hall.

"If I ever knew this would have happened, I would never have had him picked up," the father said.

The children at Juvenile Hall sleep in rooms with one, two or four beds, Powers said. The rooms are locked at bedtime, and the probation-corrections officers are required to check the rooms at least every 15 minutes, Powers said.

The rooms have night lights and intercoms for the children -- called wards -- to call staff. In addition, Powers said, the doors have windows and officers have flashlights and can enter the rooms.

He said his department is reviewing the incident. Powers said no staff member has been disciplined, and he does not anticipate that any officers will be. He said in his 10 years overseeing Juvenile Hall, every allegation of sexual abuse has been investigated but no wards or staff members have been convicted of a sex crime.

Powers said it's not unusual for wards to say they don't feel safe and he said staff will move them to another room or unit if it is warranted.

"I have a facility filled with kids accused of serious crimes," he said. "You name it, if you can go to jail for it, you can go to Juvenile Hall for it. But if you look at the actual number of incidents that happen, it's a remarkably safe environment."

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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