Meadville police have filed charges in Crawford County Juvenile Court against two male teenagers for their alleged roles in a Jan. 1 attack and beating of a 34-year-old Meadville man that Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz has termed “a vicious assault.”
The victim of the 3 a.m. attack, which took place outside the CVS pharmacy at the corner of North and Liberty streets, was taken by ambulance to Meadville Medical Center and later transported to UPMC Hamot in Erie.
“The victim suffered numerous fractures to his face,” Schultz said in a prepared statement released Wednesday announcing that charges had been filed. “The police and my office will not tolerate these kinds of unwarranted assaults being committed in our city. Citizens should be able to walk the streets at any time of day or night and feel safe. I am perplexed as to why a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old would be running the streets at 3 o’clock in the morning. Obviously, that is part of the problem.”
According to Schultz, the 16-year-old suspect has been charged with aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, two counts of simple assault, recklessly endangering, and two counts of harassment. The 15-year-old suspect has been charged with aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, simple assault and harassment. Because charges have been filed in juvenile court, the names of the suspects have not been released. All juvenile court proceedings are closed and documents are not made available to the public.
“There is a very real possibility, based on the 16-year-old suspect’s prior delinquent conduct and the facts of this case, that my office will be filing a petition with the court to have his case transferred from juvenile court to adult court,” Schultz said, adding that “it is important to note that both juveniles are presumed innocent at this time and the fact that they have been charged with delinquent acts is not evidence of guilt.”
Although rumors had been brought to the attention of the Tribune beginning shortly after the attack, both Schultz and Meadville Police Chief Dave Stefanucci had declined to comment, saying only that an investigation of an incident occurring during the early-morning hours of New Year’s Day was under way and no information would be released until the investigation was complete and charges had been filed.
Asked about rumors that the incident had been a hate crime — defined as “a crime committed because of a victim’s real or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity” by the office of the District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia, for example — Assistant District Attorney Craig Howe, the designated media contact for the case, said that although there is a crime in Pennsylvania called “ethnic intimidation” that once included “sexual orientation” in its definition, a 2007 Pennsylvania court decision on its constitutionality ruled that the statute only covers race, color, religion or national origin.
Howe noted that there was no indication of any prior connection between the suspect and the victim. Asked about reports that words had allegedly been uttered indicating a possible motivation for the beating may have been the attacker’s perception of the victim’s sexual orientation, Howe said that any such facts will come out during the adjudication process. “That’s a factor the judge can take into account later on,” he said.
Asked for a timeline for moving the case from juvenile to adult court, “Our intention is to have that filed in the not-too-distant future,” Howe said.
Howe stressed that none of the crimes with which the suspects have been charged requires the presence of a “hate-crime” element. “It’s not necessary,” he said.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.