Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Parents' rehab request granted

The Bonitos finally got their wish: Their troubled son, Faustine III, was sentenced Monday to an intensive drug and alcohol treatment program for juvenile offenders.

"We're finally satisfied," said Anne Bonito, the boy's mother. "This is what we've wanted all along, to get help for our son, not to send him to jail."

The Bonitos' 3{-year struggle to have their 16-year-old son treated was profiled Oct. 1 in the Pasco Times and updated several times since.

Faustine says his problems with drugs and alcohol began when he was 13 and started inhaling fumes from solvents. From there he went on to drink heavily, smoke marijuana and abuse prescription drugs.

He rebelled against his parents' attempts to discipline him, engaged in self-mutilation, walked out of several treatment centers and often wandered the streets with his friends, sometimes disappearing for days.

Faustine boasted to the Times that no treatment center could hold him as long as he stayed out of trouble with the law.

His parents, though, feared he would turn violent and end up in jail.

That's exactly what happened.

He was arrested Oct. 29 for threatening his mother with two screwdrivers. In June, he pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated assault, the most serious of his run-ins with authorities.

He was supposed to be sentenced to a drug treatment program for juveniles and two years of probation, his mother said.

But Faustine was convicted as an adult, not a juvenile. That made him ineligible for juvenile treatment programs.

And because he is not 18, he was ineligible for adult treatment programs.

With nowhere to go, Faustine has been in the county jail since, awaiting a resolution.

Circuit Judge Craig Villanti heard from Faustine and his parents at a hearing Monday morning in the judge's chambers. A bailiff escorted Faustine as he slowly shuffled into the room, dressed in blue prison coveralls, his hands and feet shackled.

Faustine's parents asked the judge to change their son's conviction from adult to juvenile, restoring his eligibility for a juvenile treatment program.

Villanti agreed.

Faustine will have at least a two-month wait to get into the program, though, so his parents had one more request: Let him come home in the meantime.

The teen stated his own case before the judge.

"I've been locked up for months now, waiting to get treatment," Faustine said. "I've never gotten a say anywhere in this whole mess, but I think I've been locked up enough now. My family wants me home, and I'd really like to go home."

That's where Villanti drew the line.

"Your track record about what you say and what you actually do is awful," the judge told the teen. "You don't have any credibility before me on this matter."

Villanti said that he doubted Faustine would continue to take his anti-depression medication and that he feared for Mrs. Bonito's safety in the family's New Port Richey home.

So Villanti offered Faustine a choice: Spend three years in state prison starting immediately and enroll in an intensive adult drug treatment program there, or wait in a county facility for an opening in a local juvenile treatment program.

Faustine quickly chose the latter.

But Faustine will no longer be held in the county jail. Instead, Villanti ordered the teen to be taken to the Pasco Juvenile Detention Center, where he will await an opening at the Harbor Behavioral Health Care Institute's Mandala Adolescent Residential Center.

Mrs. Bonito said she could not disagree with Villanti's decision, though she still wants her son home.

"I understand why the judge wouldn't let him come back home," she said. "He obviously doesn't trust him. I can't say that I blame him."

The boy's father, Faustine Bonito II, said he was glad to see his son taken out of the adult criminal system and instead given the help he needs.

"We didn't want to punish him; we want to help him," he said. "He is our son."

There is still a chance Faustine could go home, however. The juvenile detention center can hold Faustine for only 21 days _ shorter than the two-month wait he faces for the treatment program.

Juvenile detention officials will go before a judge today to see whether Faustine can be released on home detention.

"We want Faustine to come home," Mrs. Bonito said. "We just want to keep the family together. We want him here with us."