Hayden teens sentenced in branding
Steamboat Springs — Three Hayden teens were sentenced Friday to five days in jail and ordered to pay restitution to a group of other Hayden boys whom they branded at a party in March.
The teens, two of whom still attend Hayden High School, were given the five-day jail sentence as part of a plea agreement reached with Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James. In exchange for pleading guilty to felony menacing and third-degree assault, six counts of first-degree assault were dismissed.
The misdemeanor third-degree assault charge will stay on the teens’ permanent record, whereas the felony menacing charge is a deferred adjudication, meaning the conviction will disappear if they comply with court orders.
During the sentencing hearing Friday, District Judge James Garrecht ordered each of the teens to pay equal amounts of restitution to the victims who were burned with heated wire coat hangers; write letters of apology to the victims; serve 120 hours of community service; take anger management class; and read a book and complete an essay about hazing.
One of teens also was required to take an alcohol treatment class.
Attorneys Larry Combs, Adam Mayo and Bill Schurman each represented one of the teens.
Combs’ client already has served his five-day jail sentence. Mayo’s client, who is not yet 18, was given until Dec. 1 to serve his sentence at the Grand Mesa Detention Center. Schurman’s client, who will be 18 in September, also is required to serve his jail time before Dec. 1.
A fourth teen who was involved in the branding, 18-year-old Willy Najera, was given the same plea agreement and sentencing earlier this month.
The March incident took place at an unsupervised house party in Hayden. According to police, some teens were held down and branded against their will. The teens who did the branding threatened the victims not to tell their parents or other authorities about the incident. School officials found out about the incident two days later after students began talking about it, which spurred a police investigation.
After the sentencing Friday, each teen’s parents spoke out against the punishment. The parents didn’t say the punishment was undeserved but rather that it hasn’t and won’t change the social culture in Hayden.
“To me it’s very confusing how we got to the point that four boys are going to take responsibility for actions that have been going on for years,” one father said. “During this whole thing, I actually found out (my son) had been scarred as a freshman, but no one said anything, because that’s how it is.”
The parents also questioned how St. James came to the conclusion that branding another teen with a coat hanger warranted a felony charge, why many of the teens at the party were not given minor-in-possession tickets and why the woman whose house the party was held at was not held responsible for the party. St. James declined to respond.
One mother said she does not think punishing four boys with a jail sentence or a book assignment is going to deter similar behavior in the future.
“There’s a bigger picture here. With what’s going on in Hayden, even the police are turning a blind eye, and now all of this has led to where we are now,” she said.
Combs agreed with the parents, saying prosecuting four teens isn’t going to solve anything.
“This is a community problem that the community needs to address that cannot be addressed at a court in Steamboat,” he said. “Hayden needs to start healing, but the cure isn’t going to come from this.”
Garrecht told the parents he did not have control over Hayden or what the community is going to do about what happened in March, and that all he could do was sentence the teens to punishments in accordance with the plea agreements they accepted.
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