Updated Tue, Jul 9, 2013 11:24 am
The boy accused of striking Brittany Jeffers during the March riot that took her life pleaded to a misdemeanor rioting charge Monday in Pickaway County Juvenile Court.
Prosecutor Matt Tootle told Judge Jan Michael Long that he had enough evidence to prove Brandon Bolin, 17, committed his original charge of aggravated rioting, but he offered him a plea deal “in the interest of justice and fairness,” considering other juveniles involved in the riot pleaded to the same misdemeanor charge.
“It doesn’t negate the seriousness of what happened,” Long said to Bolin before sentencing him. “If there had not been a suspicion that you were breaking into somebody’s house, this whole thing would have never started in the first place.”
Tootle said police reports indicated that Bolin had struck Jeffers, though it is unclear whether the strike was a punch or kick or both.
“Brandon was not involved in the fight from the beginning, according to witness statements,” Tootle said. “But rather joined the fight after it started between Angel Haines and Nicole Leasure.”
Defense attorney Mike Hess elaborated, saying Bolin was inside Leasure’s house when he heard the fight and went outside to find Leasure on the ground with someone hitting her.
“His instinct [was] to go down and help with that,” Hess said. “At that point, he gets drawn into the fight.”
Before giving Bolin a chance to speak, Hess told the judge about his client’s state of mind.
“I think what Brandon has learned over these last 100 days of incarceration... is small moments of lapse in judgment... can have tragic results, and this case is nothing less than a tragedy,” he said. “He’s been very remorseful with me. He’s expressed concern about the Harvey family and about Brittany in this matter... I just think Brandon is a much different human being than he was 100-plus days ago.”
Bolin briefly addressed the court, saying his “heart goes out to Brittany and her family” and he wants to “change for the good.”
Long then ordered Bolin to a punishment similar to those of Keely Martin, 17, and Shyia Harvey, 14.
Bolin was placed on house arrest with his father Rick Giffin for at least 30 days, then it will be up for review. He was also ordered to serve an indefinite period on probation, pay court costs, perform 50 hours of community service, attend counseling, write a letter of apology to the Circleville Police Department and stay away from Shyia Harvey, Emily Harvey, Preston Harvey, Martin, Leasure, Cameron Eby and Daniel Harris – the other individuals involved in the incident.
Long also ordered Bolin to serve 90 days in juvenile detention, giving him credit for time served since his arrest on March 28.
The riot happened on the corner of Walnut and South Washington streets shortly before 1:45 p.m., March 27, a little more than an hour after Jeffers’ mother Emily Harvey, of 305 Walnut St., reported Bolin had attempted to break into 328 Walnut St., but fled to Leasure’s home at 1005 S. Washington St. when he saw her watching him, according to police reports.
Circleville Police Chief Wayne Gray said a verbal argument began with Martin and Haines at Leasure’s home.
“That’s when [Leasure] came out and she actually hit [Haines],” he said. “Then [Jeffers] jumped in and everybody else just followed suit.”
When medics arrived on-scene at 1:54 p.m., Jeffers was unresponsive. She was transported to Grant Medical Center in critical condition. Nearly 12 hours later, she was pronounced dead.
According to the autopsy report, her official cause of death was a subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding of the brain, caused by a ruptured cerebral artery.
The autopsy also showed Jeffers had a bruise on her chest and cuts on her fingers, knees, legs and back.
Original charges of aggravated rioting were filed the day after the riot against Leasure, Bolin and Eby. Martin was charged only with rioting at that time.
Harris and Haines were both charged with aggravated rioting April 1. That same day, the Harvey juveniles were issued summons to appear in court for misdemeanor charges of rioting.
Charges were dismissed against Eby, Haines and Harris last month. Nicole L. Leasure, 37, who was arrested for OVI last week, is the only adult still charged with aggravated rioting. She is scheduled for trial April 13.
Preston Harvey will go to trial July 25.
Prosecutor Judy Wolford said a grand jury chose not to return involuntary manslaughter charges last month against any of the adults involved. Tootle said he does not expect any more charges to be filed against the juveniles.