In the first indication of how the Juvenile Court will treat five athletes who have pleaded guilty in North County assaults, a senior at San Dieguito High School was sentenced Thursday to pay his victim's medical bills and serve 200 hours of community service.
Pro-Tem Referee Al Douglas rejected the district attorney's request to send the 17-year-old Solana Beach youth to Juvenile Hall for at least several days.
Douglas said too much time has elapsed since the May 30 attack for a stay in Juvenile Hall to serve as a deterrent. He said the youth and his parents have suffered from vandalism, "confrontation" and media coverage because of the case.
"Those experiences have been negative and punishing," he said. To add a stay in Juvenile Hall, Douglas asserted, "would be detrimental" to the chances for rehabilitation, which is the main goal of Juvenile Court.
Claimed Students Scared
The victim, Charles El-Ghoroury of Encinitas, has said the case bogged down because administrators at San Dieguito High tried to convince him not to press charges, the Sheriff's Department was reluctant to investigate, and other students were scared to step forward because the attackers were athletes.
After the sentencing, El-Ghoroury's mother said she and her son are just glad the case is finished. Gloria El-Ghoroury had recommended to Douglas that her son's attacker be given at least a short stay in Juvenile Hall.
"I have to think they (the judge and Probation Department) know better about these things," she told reporters. "I know Chuck will feel better about it. At least it's over."
But the victim of another attack by San Dieguito High students said the sentence would do little to curb violence among teen-agers.
"I think this was too light a sentence," said Tom Gabel, who was beaten June 26 in the driveway of his Leucadia home. "The damage to Chuck El-Ghoroury and the attack on him was pretty serious.
"I think this kind of sentence sends a message to the other kids: their behavior is not being taken seriously," he said.
The defendant pleaded guilty to hitting El-Ghoroury without warning and knocking him to the ground at a party in Olivenhain. The charge, felony battery with great bodily injury, carries a maximum four-year sentence in the California Youth Authority.
El-Ghoroury suffered a dislocated jaw, two black eyes and a split lip and was momentarily unconscious. Another former athlete from San Dieguito High faces charges in Vista Municipal Court of beating El-Ghoroury after the youth sentenced Thursday was finished with him.
The Probation Department--after interviews and a psychological evaluation--recommended 100 hours of community service, restitution and no time in Juvenile Hall. Deputy Dist. Atty. Bob Amador recommended 20 days in Juvenile Hall, with the majority of the days suspended. When Amador mentioned the possibility of Juvenile Hall, the defendant's mother shouted, "No."
Amador said the youth, a one-time football and baseball player currently ineligible because of bad grades, "has an impulse control problem" and should be given "a look at what is in store for him if he does not straighten out."
But Douglas said the "shock value" of Juvenile Hall has worn off since the case has dragged on.
Unlike several other defendants in the North County beating cases, the youth did not spend time in Juvenile Hall after his arrest and was instead released immediately to his parents.
"Much of what I'm reading (in the probation and psychological reports) is about a well-behaved and responsible young man," Douglas said. "There is an awful lot about this young man that speaks well of him."
Community service, supervised by the Probation Department, can range from washing police cars to picking up trash, cleaning up clogged lagoons, or helping various charitable organizations.
"I think this a fair sentence," said defense attorney Marvin Applbaum. "This incident was an absolute aberration, and I don't think there is any reason to expect he'll be in trouble again as a juvenile or an adult."
Along with the 200 hours and restitution, Douglas also placed the defendant on probation and ordered him to undergo counseling, submit to periodic drug and alcohol tests, and stay away from the El-Ghoroury family.
Report of Fight
Before passing sentence, he received a Sheriff's Department report of a fight June 19 between the defendant and another youth at Solana Beach Cove, an incident that did not result in criminal charges.
Thursday's sentencing may prove to set a pattern for the punishments meted out in Juvenile Court to the remaining four students, all of them current or former athletes at San Dieguito High. None has a serious prior criminal record and all appear to have supportive parents willing to cooperate with authorities.
Of the remaining four, three spent time in Juvenile Hall after being arrested, from a week to 40 days, so the "shock value" argument, which failed to sway Douglas, may not even apply.
A probation report for a 16-year-old junior from La Costa, set to be sentenced Dec. 17 for attacking Tom Gabel, recommends 100 hours of community service and no time in Juvenile Hall. The other probation reports have not been released.
Along with the Juvenile Court cases, two June graduates from San Dieguito face misdemeanor charges as adults in Vista Municipal Court. One has been convicted of misdemeanor battery in an April 27 attack on a Palomar College student and been sentenced to 15 days in jail.
The other adult defendant, 18-year-old Lawrence Jeffery Penacho, provided a glimpse into the life style of some North County teen-agers in his comments printed in San Dieguito High's yearbook, The Hoofprint.
Asked to put down his fondest memories, Penacho wrote: "Drunk fights, friends and people I've partied with--memories forever. EH we make great captains."
EH stands for Erik Heipt, 19, co-captain with Penacho on the wrestling team and now his co-defendant in two beating cases.