Boy who brought gun to Patti Welder Middle School faces criminal charge

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

March 14, 2014 at 4 p.m.
Updated March 13, 2014 at 10:14 p.m.

A 13-year-old boy who brought an unloaded handgun to Patti Welder Middle School earlier this year has been formally charged.

The boy was charged with having a prohibited weapon at a school, a third-degree felony.

The state filed its petition Feb. 28 after the sheriff's office completed its investigation, said Allison Marek, assistant district attorney.

The boy was released to his family Feb. 6 from the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center after he was detained Jan. 22.

Pama Hencerling, chief juvenile probation officer, said the boy was not in custody Friday.

His attorney, Brent Dornburg, said that is typical because juveniles receive a summons to appear in court.

While Dornburg learned of the formal charge Friday, he described it as "fair" and "not unexpected."

"I think we'll probably figure out something equitable to take care of this young man and make sure it never happens again," he said.

"There wasn't a bully situation. There wasn't somebody he was out to get, and he wasn't trying to make a statement. He was just trying to be cool, and at this point, he realizes it was a bad choice, a really bad choice," Dornburg added.

There are some similarities between adult and juvenile cases, such as the fact that the boy or the state can request a trial by a jury, which could potentially be heard in the downtown courthouse, Marek said.

A juvenile cannot receive more than 40 years confinement, but third-degree felonies do not go up to 40 years confinement, she said.

A third-degree felony carries a punishment of between two and 10 years in prison with a possible $10,000 fine, according to the Texas Penal Code.

Dornburg said if the state is actually seeking to confine the boy for a number of years, it is seeking a "determinant sentence." He said he would be surprised if the state wants to do that.

Determinant sentencing, approved by the Texas Legislature in 1987, is an alternative approach to lowering the age at which a juvenile may be certified to stand trial as an adult.

In 2007, the Legislature revised the law to say that sentenced juvenile offenders who had not completed their sentences with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department before their 19th birthdays could be transferred into the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or to adult parole supervision for the remainder of the time, according to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

The boy's name was not released because juvenile records are confidential. The day he must next appear in court has not been set, officials said.



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