A Lakeside teenager was sentenced Wednesday for assault with a deadly weapon with a hate crime enhancement for her part in a stabbing allegedly carried out by her boyfriend on a Black girl this spring.
The 15-year-old was convicted July 20 of swinging a 2-foot drainage grate "like a baseball bat," as the prosecutor described it, at the victim's mother. On Wednesday, the judge in the case handed down a sentence of 120 days in custody in the Urban Camp.
On April 16, the stabbing was reported at an apartment complex on the 1200 block of Mapleview Street. The 16-year-old victim was found with two stab wounds in her back. A 16-year-old boy and the 15-year-old teen girl being sentenced this week were both arrested in connection with the stabbing.
NBC 7 is not naming the minors involved in the case.
"The male and female residents at the Urban Camp are committed to the camp by the Superior Court," according to the San Diego County Probation Department, with female participants committed for 120 days, living in the Girls Rehabilitation Facility dormitory.
"The goal of the Urban Camp is to provide the youth with the training and skills necessary for successful transition and reintegration into society," according to the probation department.
The judge told the court — on one side of which sat the family of the Black victim and community leaders advocating for justice, with the media and the teen Lakeside girl's parent on the other — that juvenile court does not operate like an adult court. The role of the juvenile court is to remember that the defendants are juveniles, the judge said, and their sentences are about rehabilitation.
The judge said that race was a motivating factor in the assault and taken into consideration in the sentence were the unique circumstances surrounding the event, including what happened earlier and word choices. It was not in the best interests of justice to release the defendant into the community at this time, the judge said, instead arguing that concerns about her rehabilitation were best addressed in a controlled environment.
Earlier in the afternoon, prosecutors had argued that two years in a secure youth facility for people who committed serious crimes was necessary for the girl to deal with her rehabilitation and for the public's safety, also arguing that anything short of two years would send a message to the public about how San Diego deals with hate crimes, preferring instead to send a message to the public and provide assurances that, regarding public safety, hate crime and racism will not be tolerated.
The defense, however, reminded the judge that the juvenile court was dealing with a 15-year-old human being and that the idea that the case should be used to send a message to the public was inappropriate.
The teen's parents had asked the court to have the girl released to a private hospital, but the judge refused.
After the sentencing, a community activist voiced displeasure about the sentence.
"One hundred and twenty days is not even long enough for the victim to recover," said Yusef Miller of the North County Equity and Justice Coalition. "It's not long enough for her mental state to be better. So, this is not acceptable."
Miller did say, however, that "we are for rehabilitation."
During opening statements, defense attorney Kate Tesch said instead of calling the police, “as they should have done,” the teens went to confront the victim over the alleged bullying of the stabbing suspect’s 11-year-old sister. The victim denied that claim.
The defense also stated that the stabbing was not racially motivated.
In court, the prosecutor showed photos of a hard plastic drainage grate the 15-year-old female defendant was allegedly armed with the night of April 16. The defense said her boyfriend also came armed with a concealed knife.
On the stand, the victim said there was an argument earlier that day between her, her sister, and the defendants over a mean look.
Later that night, as the victim's family came home, they were confronted by the teen couple and the boyfriend’s family.
The victim said the girl got in her mom's face with the grate, so she got in between them to defend her mom. The two girls started shoving each other when the victim said she was stabbed twice in the back by the defendant's boyfriend, as he called her a racial slur.
The father of the stabbing suspect, Steve Gonzalez, testified that in a previous incident, the victim’s family has called his fiancée a “cracker” and called him “KKK dad."
On the night of the stabbing, Gonzalez said his 11-year-old daughter burst into their apartment crying. “You could tell she was freaking out,” Gonzalez said.
That night, Gonzalez said his family was having a birthday gathering for his fiancée’s dad at his apartment. He said he went to sleep sometime around 9 p.m. and slept for about an hour and a half before being woken up to commotion outside.
When Gonzalez went outside, he said he saw blue and red lights and heard a woman screaming, “Get him,” possibly referencing the father’s son.
Gonzalez said he was not with his son and his son’s girlfriend when they left the house to confront the victim’s family over the alleged assault of his daughter.
When asked by defense attorney Kate Tesch what Gonzalez teaches his family about race, he said he teaches them to treat everyone the same. Gonzalez said he does not allow racial slurs in his house and has never heard the defendant or his son use racial slurs.
The prosecution said the families' animosity toward one another does not justify the stabbing.
The defense said her client never used the drainage grate and that her client had to share the same intent as the male suspect to go there and kill the victim if that was even the stabbing suspect’s intent.
“The decision to go there was a bad one,” Tesch said. “They should have called the police. I would have a different client here had they called the police.”
The teen's boyfriend is also facing attempted murder charges and hate crime charges. He pleaded not guilty. A motion has been filed to try him as an adult, but a hearing date has not been set to argue that motion.