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Arlington teen receives net 10-day sentence for assaulting five women last year

Arlington County courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 (staff photo by James Jarvis)

An Arlington teen has been sentenced for assaulting five women in and around Courthouse last year.

One of the victims posted the conclusion to her story — a year in the making — on Reddit this week. The guilty teen is 17 years old and lives in the area between Courthouse and Rosslyn, the victim said, noting he had a stable home life.

Last year, she said, he ran up behind her, lifted up her jacket, grabbed her crotch and pulled at her pants. As the investigation progressed, she said, the assailant was discovered to have worn the same shoes in each assault and to have taken videos, which ended up matching the experiences of the five identified victims.

The teen pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and battery, according to a source familiar with the case. He is expected to spend 10 days in the Landmark juvenile detention facility in Alexandria, with 80 days of the 90 day sentence suspended.

Details about juvenile cases are typically not made public by police or prosecutors. ARLnow spoke with sources familiar with this case and with juvenile justice, in general, to fill in the cracks and provide context.

In addition to juvenile detention, the teen will have one year of probation and will undergo a psychosexual evaluation to determine if he needs therapy. He will be required to complete whatever is recommended.

If he does not complete this or has any run-ins with the law during probation, the rest of his 80-day suspended sentence could be imposed. That means he would wind up back in the juvenile detention facility or adult jail, if this happens after he turns 18.

“Since he’s a juvenile, the sentence is (in my opinion) fairly light,” the victim said.

Several Reddit users said they agreed with her, expressing their outrage, though the victim implied that the prosecution was not the reason for the light sentence.

“That said, I’m really appreciative of the Arlington PD and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for both their doggedness and sensitivity,” she said, while adding that she never received contrition from her assailant.

“I think I’d be having an easier time with the light sentence if his apology hadn’t been so appalling — ‘I’m sorry if anyone was, like, offended or something. That wasn’t my intention. I don’t want people to think I’m like a monster or anything,'” she said, emphasizing the use of the word “offended.”

Court apologies often feel this way, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti.

“She wants to know ‘why her’ and she wants an apology for making her feel violated. Our system is not designed for this,” she said. “Our system is designed to separate the harmed party from the person who did the harm and to give ample opportunities for the person who did the harm to contest that.”

“Our system really makes people dig in their heels,” Dehghani-Tafti continued. “So that apology — and the sentencing — very frequently does not feel healing.”

Juvenile sentencing

The teen pleaded to the crime of assault and battery, which is what police initially sought charges for, per a May press release.

This means he did not plead to a lower charge as part of a deal. A condition of his guilty plea to the unamended charges, however, was that it be for three, not five, counts.

The victim noted her assailant was not charged with criminal sexual battery because of a “quirk” in Virginia law.

That “quirk” is that criminal sexual battery, per state code, must be “by force, threat, intimidation or ruse.” This teen, however, assailed each woman victim from behind, taking them by surprise, which is not an element of state code, the source familiar the case said.

The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney argued for a short active sentence and three convictions, against defense arguments for a deferred disposition.

Had the judge sided with the defense, the teen would have pled guilty but the judge would not find him guilty and the charges would eventually be dropped or dismissed.

It is difficult to benchmark how one teen is sentenced versus another because there are no “traditional” sentencing times for specific crimes, ARLnow is told, though maximum time a child could spend in the juvenile detention in Alexandria is six months.

A child’s home life, mental status, criminal history, age and other factors all go into determining a sentence. Overall, however, juvenile court is set up to prioritize rehabilitation over incarceration where possible.

Per state code, the court is charged with, where possible, avoiding or minimizing jail or detention time and relying on alternative programs, consistent with public safety.

State code also says the court should only separate children from their families “in the interest of public safety and then only after consideration of alternatives to out-of-home placement which afford effective protection to the child, his family, and the community.”

The role of Reddit  

The victim has kept the Reddit community apprised of her case since the beginning and credits them for helping move the case forward.

When police identified a suspect earlier this year, the victim took to Reddit again to thank everyone who shared her post.

“Because of you, I understand several more women came forward and reported incidents that sounded similar to mine and occurred in the same geographic area,” she said. “An extra-special shoutout to the woman who ID’d the guy and called [ACPD].”

In her post this week, she thanked everyone who provided support.

“It meant more than you could know,” she said. “Here’s hoping you won’t hear from me again.”

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