The Big Story Fox News Attorney David R. Yannetti

Video Transcript

[GRAPHIC: The Big Story]

Reporter: A vicious Halloween beating has a lot of people second-guessing a judge’s decision. Here is what happened.

[GRAPHIC: The Big Story: Four teens get house arrest, Probation for Attack.]

The victims were 3 white women. Four of their attackers- black teens. They were sentenced to probation and house arrest. The victims’ families say the teens got off too easy.

Victim’s Mother: This man kicked, hit, and punched these girls in the face. My daughter while she was laying unconscious on the ground from being hit in the head in the skateboard, he still continued to hit and kick and punch my daughter’s head and face and Lauren is walking out of court getting probation.

Reporter: Pam Bondi is a Florida state prosecutor. David Yannetti is a criminal defense attorney. Pam, did they get off too easy?

Pam Bondi: Julie, in this case I believe they did.

[GRAPHIC: Pam Bondi: Florida State Prosecutor]

I certainly believe they did. One of the main reasons is they have yet to admit their guilt, so I don’t know how you can rehabilitate these young people who haven’t even committed the crime when a judge convicted them. These were very, very serious charges and now they’re also 18 years old already.

Reporter: David, prosecutor is calling this a hate crime. Some of the youths hurled racial insults at the women and one was actually heard shouting out loud, "I hate whites!" A lot of people thought that hate crime designation was supposed to produce stronger penalties. Why wasn’t it this time, then?

[GRAPHIC: David Yannetti. Criminal Defense Attorney]

David Yannetti: Well, Julie, quite frankly, I think that this decision should not surprise people as much as it apparently has for 3 reasons. Number 1: these juveniles came before the court with absolutely no prior criminal record. Often times, especially teenagers with no record, do a break the first time around. Also, I think the more important reason is that the primary stated goal of the California Juvenile Justice System is rehabilitation and not punishment. The judge’s job, in this case, was to fashion the least restrictive alternative to guarantee the rehabilitation of these juveniles, and I think that’s what he did.

Reporter: All right, Pam. Here’s what I don’t get. David says they didn’t have priors. Okay, fine. So, they don’t have priors, and some of the youths that actually attacked these girls were as young as the age of 13. So, I don’t know. Does that mean if you’re a minor you get away with this at least if you don’t do it more than once because you have no prior?

Pam Bondi: Well, that’s what it sounds like. One of the prosecutor’s very good arguments that she made was that although they didn’t have priors, these were very serious crimes, and, I think Antoinette, one of the girls that was charged, the 16 or 18 year old, she had at least 10-12 fights in school as well as one of the other individuals. They were also convicted of the hate crime enhancement. And, again, Julie, I believe in rehabilitation. I believe that if you can rehabilitate a child. However, they have yet to admit their guilt. So how can you rehabilitate someone who won’t take responsibility for their crime? That’s my biggest problem.

Reporter: All right, David, all 3 women who were attacked were attacked by these youths, 4 of them, in fact, but 3 of them were teenage girls. If the attackers were boys on a bunch of girls, do you think we’d be talking about a little more than probation and house arrest?

David: Well, I don’t want to speculate about that. I would hope not. I would note, however, there’s this big outcry. Let’s keep in mind that the prosecution was asking for 9 months in juvenile camp, which was the maximum penalty allowed by law. All of these juveniles, including one that was found not guilty, was held for over 3 months while pending trial and during trial. So, that penalty, as well as strict probation until they’re 21 years old, they’re going to be on the hook for quite a while. If they re-offend or misbehave in any way, the public and the prosecutors will get their pond of flesh.

Reporter: All right. That’s all the time we have for today. But let’s hope so, and let’s hope that this teaches some kids some lessons that they can’t get away with this sort of thing. Pam Bondi and David Yannetti. Thank you both for coming on today.

[End of David Yannetti - Big Story on Fox News with Attorney David R Yannetti]