Hayden teens accept plea

Minors in branding case to serve two years probation

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— Three Hayden teens pleaded guilty last week for their involvement in the branding of several Hayden juveniles with a heated coat hanger.

The underage teens won't be sentenced until Aug. 25, but the plea agreement calls for each of them to spend five days in jail, serve two years of supervised probation, perform 120 hours of community service and complete an anger management course.

Each teen pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and menacing. The misdemeanor assault charge will stay on their permanent records, but the menacing judgment was deferred, meaning it will disappear from their records if they meet certain conditions.

The charges stem from a March 11 house party in Hayden where as many as six juveniles were branded -- some against their will -- with a coat hanger.

One of the teens was originally charged with six counts of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon; another was charged with five counts of first-degree assault; and a third student was charged with two counts of first-degree assault.

"Hopefully, the community can start healing from this and go about their lives," said Larry Combs, a Steamboat Springs attorney representing one of the teens. "I think this is a fair and reasonable disposition."

The teens will be placed under a restraining order during the length of their probations. The order bars them from having contact with many of the people involved in the branding incident.

Combs said the order could be difficult to follow because Hayden is a small town.

"It's not so difficult for my client, because he's going to college, but for the boys in Hayden, it's not so easy to not have contact," Combs said. "Some kids live on the same block."

Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James prosecuted the case but did not return phone calls seeking comment. He previously has refused to comment about the case because it involved juvenile victims and defendants.

The teens agreed to the deal during their first district court appearance June 30 -- nearly four months after the incident.

The agreement is identical to a deal that was offered to Willy Najera, 18, on June 19. He was the only adult charged in the brandings. He was originally charged with first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and menacing.

"It was just boys using poor judgment," Combs said.

-- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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