HOLLIDAYSBURG - After several years of treatment in the Blair County juvenile system for drug and alcohol abuse and sexual offenses, a 19-year-old Altoona man was released Wednesday from custody without being placed on probation.
Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio objected, stating the young man should at least have to be on probation until he's 21 years old, but Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva said he has accomplished the goals the juvenile system set for him.
Kopriva said she has been overseeing the teen's case for a long time, adding she was impressed with the progress he had made recently to rid himself of his addictions and to address his sexual problems.
The teen has undergone sexual therapy through Project Point of Light, according to a counselor who helped to treat him and who said he is now "low risk" for a relapse.
The judge's ruling that the young man need not be placed on probation turned out to be a major break for him, since he will not have to register with police for the rest of his life as a sexual offender, under the stricter Megan's Law requirements that take effect on Dec. 20.
The discussion between Consiglio, the judge and representatives of the defense team became intense.
Consiglio said that it was 'irresponsible" and "flat out ridiculous" the young man would not be placed on probation.
"There's no rational reason under God's blue heaven he is not on probation," Consiglio said.
Kopriva said the district attorney and his staff have stepped into the case only in the last six months and
didn't understand how much progress the young man has made in addressing his problems.
For instance, he previously would not open up about his problems, but that changed during his most recent stint in a treatment facility. Once he opened up, his attitude changed and now he is talking about getting work and supporting himself, Kopriva said
His mother told the judge how much improvement he has made. She told him to "man up" to his problems and in recent home visits she said she has "enjoyed" his company, minus drugs and alcohol.
"He's more fun to be around," she said.
The therapist who treated the teen said he has 12 years' experience and believes the young man is low risk.
Kopriva, in releasing the young man from custody with no probation told the teen to "make it work." He vowed, "I will."
Then she pointed out that the young man is no longer considered a juvenile and she stated that any new crime he commits will end up in adult criminal court.
Kopriva warned him that she doesn't expect the district attorney to give him any breaks if he comes back to court.