Teen delinquent sent to adult court for child molesting loses appeal of juvenile court waiver

A man who as a minor was found to be a delinquent for multiple acts of sexual misconduct against children has lost his appeal of the waiver that sent him into adult court when he was 17.

The case of D.W. v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.), 20A-JV-1811, began in 2012, when then-10-year-old D.W. molested a 5-year-old girl. The Indiana Department of Child Services also substantiated reports in 2016 that D.W. had molested multiple victims, including his younger brother. D.W. eventually pleaded guilty to being a delinquent for what would be Level 3 felony child molesting if committed by an adult.

D.W. was then placed at Wernle Youth and Family Services for residential treatment before being moved to a less restrictive placement at Polaris Group Home in late 2018. But the teen “struggled” at Polaris and violated multiple rules, including failing to attend school and testing positive for THC. Thus, he was placed in the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center.

D.W. returned to Wernle in January 2019 before beginning a “trial home visit” in his mother’s care. He received outpatient treatment for substance abuse as well as physical/sexual abuse while living with his mother in Anderson, where three minors also lived in their home. DCS had instituted a safety plan prohibiting D.W. from spending time with the minors unsupervised and requiring them to lock their doors at night.

But in January 2020, DCS received a report that 17-year-old D.W. had molested 10-year-old M.S., the child of his mother’s partner. It was revealed that D.W. had committed “multiple sex acts” against M.S., so the state filed another delinquency petition alleging multiple counts of child molesting as well as one count of displaying harmful matter to a minor.

After filing the delinquency petition, the state filed a motion for waiver of juvenile jurisdiction, which the juvenile court granted. D.W. appealed the waiver, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in a Friday memorandum decision.

“In support of his contention that remaining in the juvenile justice system is in his best interests, D.W. asserts that he presented ‘undisputed evidence’ that, if he were ‘sent to adult prison, [he] would likely be brutalized by older inmates and further traumatized.’ And in support of his contention that the community’s best interest would also be served by keeping him in the juvenile justice system, D.W. asserts that he ‘was evaluated and determined to a low risk of reoffend,’” Judge Edward Najam wrote Friday.

“… However, the probation officer’s preliminary inquiry report also states that D.W. ‘scored as a high risk on the IYAS[,]’ which is the Indiana Youth Assessment System,” Najam continued. “That report describes in detail D.W.’s long history of ‘sexually maladaptive behavior,’ including ‘sexual contact with or sexual abuse against approximately 20 people, the majority of which were the same age as he or younger.’

“… D.W.’s argument on appeal amounts to a request to reweigh the evidence, which we cannot do. We hold that D.W. did not present sufficient evidence to prove that it is in the best interests of him and the safety and welfare of the community for him to remain in the juvenile justice system. … Given D.W.’s history of sexually abusing multiple children since 2012, which has continued despite treatment, including inpatient treatment, we cannot say that the juvenile court abused its discretion when it waived D.W. into adult court.”

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