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Mother in shock over teen's sentence

Authorities had recommended lighter sentences for the teenager, but a judge says 10 years. ''It's always somebody else's fault other than their own,'' the judge said.

By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 28, 2002


INVERNESS -- Earlier this year, 16-year-old Adam Bollenback swiped a six-pack of beer from a refrigerator in a woman's garage and got caught by Citrus County sheriff's deputies.

The situation went from bad to worse when Bollenback slithered out of a patrol car while the deputy wasn't watching, leaving behind only his shoes.

He was caught and accused of burglary, petty theft and escape. Prosecutors charged him in the adult system, a move that was within their discretion.

After Bollenback was tried and convicted of the crimes, the state Department of Corrections recommended the boy, now 17, wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet for two years. The Department of Juvenile Justice thought a stay in a high-level youth facility would be more appropriate.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Ric A. Howard discarded those suggestions and sentenced Bollenback to a 10-year prison term.

"You're well on your way to a lifetime of prison and I don't want to see that happen," Howard said before handing down the punishment. "This sentence is going to break your spirit right now."

Bollenback's mother, Cheryl, was stunned by the judge's decision.

"What? What did he say?" she asked, glancing around the courtroom in confusion. "Ten years? Is that right?"

Bollenback's lawyer, Jim Cummins, immediately asked the judge for permission to keep the youth at the Citrus County jail for 10 days so he could file motions protesting the sentence. Howard denied the request.

Then Cummins asked that his client, still technically a juvenile, be segregated from the adult inmate population. The motion also was rejected.

"He's an adult and he's going to be treated as an adult," Howard said.

Bollenback smiled and flashed a peace symbol at his mother as he was led out of the courtroom in shackles.

"Adam, I love you," Cheryl Bollenback called out. "Don't worry about a thing."

Adam Bollenback has a history of trouble with the law. Assistant State Attorney David Porter said the teen had been convicted of battery on a detention facility staff member, aggravated assault and battery on school staff.

But Cheryl Bollenback told the judge before sentencing the convictions sounded worse than they actually were. She said the detention facility employee was dismissed after the fight with her son because he had a history of being physically violent.

The aggravated assault charge came after her son threw a stick in her direction during a quarrel. Cheryl Bollenback said she never expected her son to be charged with a crime.

"I thought I could call for help to calm him down," she said.

Her son received the school-related charge when a staff member tried to break up a fight between him and another student. "It's not like he punched a school employee," she said.

Cheryl Bollenback also told the judge her son was taking several medications to help him with mental problems, including bipolar disorder. She said most of his offenses have happened when he refused to take his medicine.

But Porter said the explanations illustrated an inability to accept blame.

"It's always somebody else's fault other than their own," he said.

Porter also noted Adam Bollenback had a history of substance abuse, including alcohol, codeine and marijuana.

Cummins said he plans to file a flurry of motions to keep his client out of prison. But that task may become significantly more difficult in the next day: Once Adam Bollenback is put into adult prison, he is no longer eligible for a juvenile sentence, Cummins said.

Although Bollenback was tried as an adult, he was sentenced during juvenile court. Cummins said he believes the judge was trying to make an example of his client.

"There's no place for that when you're sentencing an individual," he said. "Especially in the sentencing of a juvenile."

-- Carrie Johnson can be reached at 860-7309 or cjohnson@sptimes.com.

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