Flash mob teens face the music at Family Court

Lacresh Speach (left) and Eric Diggs, parents of a youth suspected of being in a flash mob earlier this year, talk with reporters outside Family Court yesterday.
Lacresh Speach (left) and Eric Diggs, parents of a youth suspected of being in a flash mob earlier this year, talk with reporters outside Family Court yesterday.
Posted: March 23, 2010

A FAMILY COURT judge yesterday ordered nine of 11 teens accused of being flash-mob rioters to be taken away in handcuffs. He gave another home detention and he cleared the 11th - arrested with somebody else's blood on his hands - of all charges.

Four additional teens agreed to plead guilty and did not appear in court, said Assistant District Attorney Angel L. Flores.

The teenagers who faced justice were arrested for taking part in a Feb. 16 melee during which upward of 150 youths stormed through the Macy's at 13th and Market streets and a subway concourse and threw snowballs at police officers at 15th and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Administrative Judge Kevin Dougherty, who tried yesterday's cases, is to hear the cases today of 16 teenagers arrested on March 3 following another flash-mob riot.

Over more than eight hours of testimony yesterday, police officers from the city and SEPTA and a Macy's security officer testified about the damage the mob caused.

Bruce Neil, of Macy's, said that about 4:30 p.m. he saw a large group of teens enter the store from Chestnut Street. Before long, a fight broke out resulting in two glass watch counters and a mannequin being destroyed and shoes and clothing being tossed about, he said.

Cameras inside and outside the department store captured some of the lawlessness, but only one youth was identified through the footage.

"Kids were screaming, yelling and scaring pedestrians at City Hall," Police Officer Louis Pagan told Dougherty.

After police moved the throng farther west to 15th and JFK, he said, "at that point, they actually started to throw snowballs at us."

Dougherty ruled that prosecutor Flores had proven that 10 defendants - all males - were guilty of felony counts of rioting and conspiracy and related misdemeanor charges.

A 15-year-old Gratz High School student who was on probation and who had two previous arrests was adjudicated delinquent and could remain in a state placement facility for up to four years, the judge said.

An 18-year-old Olney High 11th- grader was taken into custody, but the judge deferred sentencing him until he received more information on whether the teen had signed a letter of intent to join the military, as he and his attorney said.

Another 15-year-old Gratz student was adjudicated delinquent and given three years in a placement facility.

Another 15-year-old Gratz student was adjudicated delinquent and taken into custody for an unspecified amount of time.

The judge told a 17-year-old Benjamin Franklin High School football player and Naval ROTC member that he would be brought back today for sentencing because he needed a time-out. The boy became upset after his mother scolded him in court for potentially wrecking his chances of attending the Naval Academy.

A Lincoln High School student with several scrapes with the law, including being questioned by Secret Service for having a counterfit $20 bill, was taken into custody but will be sentenced later.

Another Gratz student arrested since the Feb. 16 riot for a burglary on the Temple University campus was to be sent to a state placement facility for up to four years, Dougherty said.

"Your child is a step away from being a real criminal," the judge told the defendant's parents.

A 15-year-old Gratz student said he felt partly responsible for the large crowd of teenagers in Center City that day because he had sent a message on MySpace that his dance group was going to be filming a dance video in the Gallery. Dougherty said he believed that the teen was being honest, so he gave him a 30-day stay at a boot camp.

Another 15-year-old Gratz student, convicted also of possessing 12 small bags of marijuana, was given a 30-day boot-camp sentence to be followed by placement in a state facility. His girlfriend held the couple's 2-month-old son.

A Lincoln High 16-year-old student was the only convicted defendant to go home - on home detention.

This was his first arrest and he has good school attendance, his attorney said.

The only defendant cleared of all charges ran from a SEPTA police officer at 13th and Market. The officer testified that the teen matched the description of a suspect said to have a gun. The officer said that when he caught the teen, his hands were covered with blood but that he had no cuts.

His attorney, Ivan Feiner, said his client did not have a gun or do anything wrong but ran because "he's a dumb young kid and that's what he did."

In releasing him, Dougherty said that because no victim had come forward, there was insufficient evidence against the teen.

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