Sunday, December 3, 2023

Juvenile Avoids Charges in Attack on Senior Citizen

In video obtained by the Herald

By Shay Roddy

NORTH CAPE MAY – A female juvenile will face consequences for attacking a senior citizen in October, which was caught on cell phone video published by the Herald. 

The girl, whose name is not being released by the Heald, will avoid formal charges if she complies with the terms of a stationhouse adjustment from Lower Township police. The incident could be charged as simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct, police said.  

“I can only summarize it as shocking to the conscience,” Lower Township Police Department Capt. Donald Vanaman Jr. said in an interview. 

However, there was not enough there to meet the legal burden for an aggravated assault charge, because the victim’s injuries were not severe enough, he added. 

“The prerequisites for a stationhouse adjustment with this juvenile were exact. She was a prime candidate for a stationhouse adjustment,” Vanaman added, who is the LTPD executive officer.  

John Wells, the victim, who was informed by police of the outcome, said in an interview that he will be happy with the consequences if they produce the relief he seeks from future encounters with what he and neighbors had described as continual harassment from a group of high school aged kids. 

“It’s a good start. It might be able to help her out,” Wells, 76, said. “The way it’s set up with the police and the laws in the state of Jersey, the cops’ hands are tied…. I believe they are trying.” 

According to a supplementary investigation report obtained by the Herald, which was signed by police department Det. James Mathis, the juvenile, “has never been charged as a delinquent in New Jersey” and “has never been stationhouse adjusted by the Lower Township Police Department. The detective determined in his report, “a stationhouse adjustment should be offered in lieu of formal charges.” 

A stationhouse adjustment is a diversionary program designed to keep juveniles out of the criminal justice system. It is defined in the attorney general’s guidelines as “an alternative method that law enforcement agencies may use to handle first-time juvenile offenders who have committed minor juvenile delinquency offenses…. The intent of the stationhouse adjustment program is to provide for immediate consequences, such as community service or restitution and a prompt and convenient resolution for the victim, while at the same time benefitting the juvenile by avoiding the stigma of a formal juvenile delinquency record.” 

In accordance with the terms, charges can be filed if the juvenile does not abide by a determined set of conditions. She must not commit another offense for six months; have no contact with Wells, his family or property; must write Wells a letter of apology; and complete the Impact 6 program. Impact 6 is described as a six hour diversion program through Cape Assist for underage alcohol and marijuana users. 

Vanaman said the department had a productive meeting with the residents from the neighborhood where the incident occurred. Neighbors had been gathering in a cul-de-sac outside their homes off Sherriff Taylor Boulevard, a quiet street in North Cape May, when they said they were disrupted by the juveniles. 

One house, where neighbors say the troublesome kids were gathering, while the adult who lived there worked night shifts,is now being supervised more closely, both by its residents and neighbors. 

There’s been direct dialogue with helpinglet them know what they can do to help themselves with being overrun with juveniles. They’ve been cooperative,” Vanaman said. 

In his interview, Wells offered a grave warning to the girl if she were to try putting her hands on him again.  

“I’m at a point where I’ll end it,” he said. “If they come on my property and cause problems, there’s going to be a real problem. No more just sitting there letting them slap me. It’s not happening anymore. I’m too old for that s—.” 

Wells said he would not hesitate to get physical next time.  In the video Wells did not retaliate while being attacked, but he said he would not extend the same courtesy, next time.  

“I’m going to protect my property and my family. I’m not going to allow it to happen on my property,” Wells said. “No more Mr. Nice Guy. I will swing back. I’m not that big, but I’ll tell you what, I can still pack a punch and I would put every one of them down.” 

Wells hopes though that it won’t get to that point and that this will instead be a wakeup call for the kids. He wants them to take the opportunity to turn their lives around.  

In the meantime, he said he will keep checking the mailbox for his apology letter. 

“I want to see this letter. Then, I’m going to her mother, after I get the letter,” Wells said. “These kids have got to get involved in something else besides being idiots. I was a kid myself. But I never did anything like that. A lot of dumb things, but never assaulting people or anything like that.” 

To contact the reporter, Shay Roddy, email or call (609) 886-8600 ext. 142. 

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