Teens in rock-throwing incident take plea deal
Special to The Union
Three teenagers who seriously injured a motorist by throwing rocks at vehicles from an overpass in Colfax agreed on Wednesday to a plea arrangement in which they must serve 10 months in the Placer County Juvenile Detention Center and be placed on three years of formal probation.
Sean Edwin Steele, 17, and Hunter Perez, 16, both of Colfax, and Samuel Edward Quinlan, 16, of Chicago Park, were also ordered to serve 300 hours of community service after they pleaded no contest to three felony counts in Placer County Superior Court.
The charges were conspiracy, assault with a deadly weapon and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury; the charge of assault with a deadly weapon will be recorded as a felony strike on their criminal record. Because of the seriousness of the crimes, the three teenagers were prosecuted in adult court instead of in a juvenile court.
Visiting Judge Garrett Olney briefly lectured the defendants, all of whom were students at Colfax High School, about how they should approach the fact that they now have a criminal record and must serve custody time.
“There are two ways to look at this,” he said. “You can say ‘Oh my gosh, my life is over.’ Or you can say, ‘This is the first day of the rest of my life.'”
Olney urged them to view their case as “an unusual circumstance that is never going to happen again.”
“If you violate probation, you could be facing six years in state prison and $10,000 in fines,” he warned them. “I fully expect you to be squeaky clean from now on.”
The three defendants were arrested in August following an investigation by the California Highway Patrol into a July 26 incident in which someone threw rocks and a street barricade onto Interstate 80 from the Canyon Way overcrossing at about 2:15 a.m.
Two trucks were struck by the objects, but the drivers were not injured. The third vehicle, a Ford Expedition driven by Jose Palomera of Sacramento, was hit on the windshield.
The rock smashed through the glass, striking Palomera in the mouth and jaw and causing serious injuries that required him to be in the hospital for several days.
The teens’ classmates at Colfax High School held a fundraising event for Palomera Wednesday.
Colfax High School Principal Rick Spears said the music department, under teacher Todd Wilkinson, sponsored a band and choir concert that attracted nearly 400 people and raised more than $2,100 for the victim.
“It was really nice that the students stepped forward to want to help the victim when they really didn’t have to,” Spears said. “We have all felt very sad about what happened. Now we all want to move forward and hope for better days ahead.”
Palomera, who did not attend the court hearing, said he was pleased with the results of the case.
“I think the case turned out well,” he said. “I hope the kids learned from their mistake. I’m sure it was a good lesson for them, that what they did was not a game. They could have killed me and the two passengers in my car.”
Palomera, who said he still experiences pain in his jaw and teeth, said two of the defendants have visited him to apologize and that the parents of the third boy apologized to him at one of the previous court hearings.
The three defendants will return to court on Nov. 4 for a hearing to determine their credited time for being in custody and to discuss restitution for damages caused in the rock-throwing incident.
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