Back in April, parents of the Broadalbin-Perth School District received a vague letter about a February safety incident on a school bus. Wednesday, Spectrum News learned the incident was a case of forced sexual contact between a teen and a child.
Dominick Young pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Fulton County court Wednesday afternoon. He accepted a plea deal for forcing the child to have anal and oral sex.
The reason none of this information was made public until recently was because of the new Raise the Age law. The law established a new class of adolescent offenders for 16-year-olds so they could not be tried in the adult criminal justice system, or be housed with adult inmates. We previously reported 17-year-olds would join in on that protection this year, as new parts of the law phase in.
Young was just 16 years old when he sexually abused the child on a Broadalbin-Perth School District school bus. Sheriff Rich Giardino says this was the first case in Fulton County where a violent crime fell under the new statute and it created several challenges for law enforcement.
"In this particular case, a lot of people were upset; they thought there was a cover-up. A lot of people thought we had messed something up and had dropped the ball, and neither were true," Giardino said.
Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown said the new law made things complicated from the start because family court judges are assigned to youth cases and decide whether they go to family court or criminal court.
"A family court judge looks at things differently than a criminal court judge does, [but] they’re looking at what’s in the best interest of the child. When the judge reviewed this case for bail at the very beginning, it didn’t happen," Brown said.
Because of that, Young was released back into the community and temporarily suspended from school, but he could have at some point been allowed back. Now, he’s sentenced to five years in prison, with 10 years of post-release supervision, as part of the plea deal.
"Then, if this case had ended up staying in family court, this would’ve been a sealed case; so instead of everybody knowing and having this defendant classified as a sex offender, without having that done, nobody would be any of the wiser," Brown said.
Giardino says a full investigation was completed, but it was difficult without being able to inform the public.
"The pitfall with that particular rule is we can’t let them know a lot of the information — other kids might have been abused — other people might have had information, so it’s kind of like doing an investigation blindfolded," Giardino said.
Both Giardino and Brown say their concerns continue, as the second wave of the Raise the Age law goes into effect on October 1 for 17-year-olds; then, they say, new bail and discovery laws will create more new challenges starting January 1.
"I think there are a lot of safety issues," Giardino said.
"It’ll be something that I’m sure we’ll talk about further with the district attorney's association," Brown said.
This case has also sparked questions regarding safety on the district’s school buses, prompting the district to change its policy and separate elementary and high school students on buses.
Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson issued the following statement in part: “I am proud of the transportation services we provide to the children of Broadalbin-Perth and remain committed to ensuring the safety of our students at all times, both in school and on the bus.”
Under the new statute, Young is going to be serving his time in an adolescent facility, which Brown says also poses other issues, since he admitted to abusing another minor.