A 13-year-old boy who helped send a shopping cart flying onto a woman from a fourth-floor mall walkway was sentenced Tuesday to at least six months in a therapy-oriented boarding school after his mother and lawyer said he was yearning for help.
"Your behavior, from time to time, is completely out of control. But that doesn't mean it has to be that way forever," Manhattan Family Court Judge Susan Larabee said as she sentenced one of two boys involved in the Oct. 30 shopping-cart stunt, which left the woman temporarily in a coma and prompted discussion about children's behavior and societal failings.
The boy, who has been in a detention facility since his arrest, sat quietly as Larrabee told him both he and his mother have "a lot of work to do" emotionally before he should be allowed to go home. His mother gently patted his back.
"I'm so glad that my son is going to get help, and I'm going to do what I have to do, too," she said after court.
The Associated Press generally doesn't report the names of juveniles charged with crimes and is withholding the mother's name to avoid identifying the boy.
The judge's decision to sentence the boy to up to 16 months in a residential, but not locked, facility represented a middle path among possibilities that ranged from a secure facility to a juvenile court equivalent of parole. The judge will have the option next year of extending his time at the school until he's as old as 18.
Charged as juveniles, the boy and a 12-year-old friend pleaded guilty last fall to assault. The 12-year-old is awaiting sentencing.
The 13-year-old had a history of problematic behavior, including hitting his mother's cat and trying to run down schoolmates on his bicycle, before the shopping-cart prank, officials said. The cart landed on Marion Salmon Hedges, 47, a real estate broker and active charity volunteer who was out buying Halloween candy to give away.
"This (sentencing) is the first phase of justice being served in this case, but it's a long road ahead," said Thomas A. Moore, a lawyer representing her family in a lawsuit against the East River Plaza shopping center's owners and others. The suit, filed last week, says there wasn't enough attention to security at the East Harlem mall.
Owners East River Plaza LLC declined to comment, citing the ongoing lawsuit, but said their prayers continued to go out to Hedges.
The 13-year-old apologized to Hedges in a letter, calling his actions stupid and saying he didn't mean to hurt her, according to his lawyer, Shahabuddeen Ally.
The case got attention from New York to Georgia, where an editorial in The Augusta Chronicle depicted the incident as evidence that "at least one of society's wheels is completely off the rails."
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