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California teen charged as adult for juvenile hate crime

Kids who are accused of committing crimes in California run the risk of being tried as adults if the offense is severe enough. One 16-year-old teen is headed past juvenile court and straight to adult proceedings after he allegedly committed a hate crime in Oakland in early November. The young man is accused of lighting a transgendered teen's skirt on fire as she napped on a public bus. He is facing felony assault charges that have been bolstered by the hate crime allegations, along with an additional charge of aggravated mayhem.

The victim suffered such severe burns that she remains hospitalized in a San Francisco medical facility. That victim will likely require a series of surgeries to fully recover from her serious wounds.

Relatives of the defendant say that although he admitted to being "homophobic," he did not fully understand what he was doing. In fact, they contend that the boy simply took a joke too far, and he did not think about the severity of the potential consequences. He remains in custody without bail for the alleged hate crime, according to officials. It is not clear whether his family has been able to retain a defense attorney to provide legal advice throughout the proceedings.

A national trend against charging juveniles as adults has taken hold in many jurisdictions, but the designation of "hate crime" may have contributed to this case's elevated status. Ultimately, the teen admitted that he had set the victim on fire, and video surveillance supports the fact that he may have committed the crime. Still, teens' confessions can be forced, especially since these young people are easily coerced by authority figures.

Juvenile crime cases can be far more complicated than those of adults. These special needs call for the experience of a qualified defense attorney who can help identify and protect the courtroom rights of the young defendant.

Source:, "Hate crime charge for California boy accused of setting transgender teen on fire" Ronnie Cohen, Nov. 07, 2013

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results