Anferney Fontenet, 15, is escorted from a courtroom after Juvenile Court Judge Connie Zemmelman ruled yesterday that the youth would be sent to adult court to face rape and robbery charges. The judge cited information about the youth's involvement in a 2008 rape attempt.
Jetta Fraser Enlarge
The teenager accused of raping and robbing a woman on a West Toledo street in broad daylight did not have a criminal record - but according to his own admissions, he had previously tried to force sex on someone.
Calling the alleged crime both "brazen" and "violent," Lucas County Juvenile Court Judge Connie Zemmelman ruled yesterday to relinquish jurisdiction over Anferney Fontenet and to send him to adult court to face charges of rape and aggravated robbery.
The teenager is charged in the midday assault of a woman Jan. 19 on the sidewalk on Royalton Road at Lyman Avenue. Authorities said he held a pair of scissors to the victim's neck and ignored her pleas to stop the assault.
The judge made her decision after a hearing that spanned two days and involved the testimony of two witnesses. Also considered was a report by a clinical psychologist that recommended against sending the 15-year-old to adult court, saying he was emotionally, physically, and psychologically immature.
But the judge said the youth's background - which included information that he provided about an unreported attempted rape in 2008 of a female he knew
- and the teen's apparent lack of remorse convinced her that the case belonged in adult court.
"Obviously, a victim like [this victim] is not safe from Anferney Fontenet any time or anywhere because this happened in the street when other people were around," Judge Zemmelman said.
"There is a risk to our public safety and the lack of prior family involvement in any prior treatment means that there is nothing to assure me that he would be kept home safe while he was getting treatment," the judge added. "The juvenile system would have him only for another five years. I'm doubtful [treatment] could be accomplished."
The judge spoke of an incident that the Fontenet youth admitted during his interview for the psychological evaluation. She said he admitted to attempting to rape a female just about a year prior to the January assault.
She said that he admitted "he was in the mood to have sex and she happened to be there."
"Had that attempted rape been reported and it was brought to the juvenile system … counseling would have been ordered," Judge Zemmelman said. Instead, she added, the teenager attended some counseling sessions, but that "there was no follow-up by Anferney or his family."
The teenager is scheduled to be transferred to the Lucas County jail today. His case then will be presented to a county grand jury for indictment. If convicted on charges of rape and aggravated robbery, he would face up to 20 years in prison.
The teenager's attorney, Myron Duhart, said after the hearing that the judge's comments during court were "telling." He said that although he believed the Fontenet youth could be rehabilitated in juvenile court, the judge thought differently.
"I think her decision rested on the juvenile court's ability to provide two things: one, the adequate safeguards to protect the community and two, the extended type of treatment that [was] recommended [for the teenager,]" he said. "She decided that the juvenile system was not capable of giving him the resources he needed."
During the hearing, Mr. Duhart spoke of the teenager's lack of a criminal history and a diagnosis of mental illness.
Although he called no witnesses to testify, Mr. Duhart told the judge during closing arguments that the Fontenet youth had been in a car accident when he was younger that caused a serious head injury. He added that the teenager since had been diagnosed with an adjustment disorder as well as an impulse-control disorder.
"When interviewed by detectives, he described a scenario which was not planned, it was not something he intended to do," Mr. Duhart said of the alleged assault.
"He described it in his own words as somewhat of an impulsive act which coincides with the mental illness components."
During a recorded interview with police played in court at a Feb. 2 probable cause hearing, the youth admitted that he grabbed the victim around the neck, raped her, and took her phone. The 26-year-old victim lives in a group home and has bipolar disorder and Asperger's syndrome.
The woman, who is not identified because she is a victim of sexual assault, did not attend the hearing.
The victim's parents said after the hearing that they were grateful to the judge for the decision and that they hope their daughter will once again feel safe.
"The whole thing plays over in my mind. What possesses people to do that?" the victim's mother said after the hearing.
She admitted that she still has anger for the youth, although she hopes he is able to get the help he needs.
"Just to be picking on her in the middle of the day," she said.
"My daughter was horribly violated."
The teenager's father, Preston Fontenet, Jr., declined to comment after the hearing.
Assistant County Prosecutor Jen Liptack-Wilson acknowledged that the report from a clinical psychologist with the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center that recommended keeping the teenager in the juvenile system created an "uphill battle."
But she said that the crime was so heinous that the office believed it belonged in adult court.
She said that in the three years she has prosecuted sex crimes in juvenile court, most typically deal with juveniles assaulting juveniles, without a weapon involved, and behind closed doors when there is no adult supervision.
"This case was the exact opposite of that," she said, adding that the victim was an adult who was targeted in the middle of the day.
"It was just so violent that we didn't feel our [juvenile] system was the appropriate place to treat that sort of crime."
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