The 14-year-old boy accused of raping an 11-year-old girl at RivieraMiddle School last month will be prosecuted as an adult, a judge ruled Friday.
Pinellas County Judge Walter A. Fullerton's ruling means the boy faces the possibility of a lengthy prison term if found guilty.
Assistant State Attorney Linda H. Babb asked Fullerton to transfer the case to adult court, saying the juvenile justice system can't guarantee the boy will not attack women when he reaches adulthood.
"His pattern of living is that of a sex offender," Babb said, noting that investigators believe the boy committed at least six other sex attacks within a year of last month's alleged rape.
Police say the boy, an eighth-grader, raped the girl Jan. 4 in a stairwell at Riviera Middle School during school hours.
The youth's attorney, J. Andrew Press, contended Friday that the juvenile system offers the best hope for rehabilitation.
"He's still just a child," Press said. "It's obvious that he needs a shot at the best the psychological profession can offer."
The boy, a lanky youth described as having "above average" intelligence, listened intently throughout the proceeding.
His parents also were in the courtroom. A bailiff, citing regulations, prevented the boy's mother from hugging her son before the hearing.
After the judge's ruling, the boy's mother wept quietly at the rear of the courtroom. Her husband tried to console her.
The state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) and a psychological consultant to the Juvenile Court joined Press in urging Fullerton not to transfer the case to adult court.
James Townsend, a senior counselor for HRS, outlined for Fullerton his agency's recommendation for the boy.
The boy should be sent to the Dozier Training School at Marianna for a year of intense therapy under 24-hour supervision, he testified.
That should be followed by six months at Criswell House, a halfway program in Tallahassee where the boy would eventually return to public school. Only with court permission, Townsend said, would the boy be allowed to return home, where he would continue with outpatient therapy.
Robert Miller, the psychological consultant, said rehabilitation could work with this boy. "There's every indication he can be helped dramatically."
He described the boy as an impulsive egocentric who has "illusions of invulnerability" and problems coping with ordinary adolescent pressures.
If the boy is sent by an adult court to the Department of Corrections, he warned, "there will be no rehabilitation conducted."
What's more, he added, there is a "high probability" the boy would be attacked or raped by adult inmates.
"I would be quite concerned about the safety of the community upon his release" from a state prison, Miller said.
Babb, however, said the record of successful rehabilitation for sex offenders is "very poor." She also pointed out that the Juvenile Court would loose jurisdiction of the boy when he turns 19. And she questioned whether the training school or halfway house could prevent the boy from escaping and returning to St. Petersburg.
"He's a threat to the children at school. He's a threat to the children on the street. He's a threat," Babb said.
The adult system could send the boy to the same programs with the threat of prison hanging over him if he tried to escape or failed at rehabilitation, she argued.
Babb declined to release the boy's identity until Fullerton formally signs the transfer order, which could occur next week.
After that, the boy will be moved from the Juvenile Detention Center to the juvenile wing of the Pinellas County Jail, she said.
He will then be arraigned on a charge of sexual battery, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Press, however, said state sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of nine to 12 years if his client is found guilty of the charge.
On Wednesday, the Pinellas School Board expelled the boy and declared him ineligible to attend the regular public schools until August 1991.