The leader of a Philadelphia teen "flash mob" that assaulted people at random and provoked the mayor to lecture black youths of personal responsibility has been sentenced to confinement in a juvenile detention facility.
A judge berated the 17-year-old and two other youths Thursday for beating four people and robbing them. The teens admitted their involvement in the July 29 rampage.
"Your actions, behavior, and attitude are appalling and disgusting for civilized society," Family Court Judge Kevin Dougherty told the teens. "Philadelphia will not be a laughingstock because [of] a few individuals who decide to hunt human beings and laugh about it."
Destructive flash mobs, in which youths often congregate by texting each other or using other social media, have become a problem for many communities. Philadelphia has witnessed about 10 such incidents in the past two years, with some assaults occurring in broad daylight.
The July 29 attack prompted Democratic Mayor Michael A. Nutter, who is black, to deliver a church sermon in which he told black teens that "you have damaged your own race." He imposed stricter curfew hours on weekends, beefed-up police patrols and expanded hours at city-operated recreation centers.
The teens told the judge they are members of a group calling themselves the "Young Money Gang" and they intended to fight another gang. When the fight didn't materialize, they attacked passersby on the street at random.
Judge Dougherty sentenced the 17-year-old to a state facility where he could be held until age 21. A 16-year-old boy was sent to a residential school for delinquents. The youngest offender, 11, was placed in the care of his grandmother pending an evaluation. He will be monitored with a GPS bracelet.
Prosecutors played 9-1-1 calls in court from the night of the attacks. In one call, a woman told police: "They just jumped this white guy, a group of black kids. …Tell police to hurry up. They just beat someone else up. It's like 20 of them."
At sentencing, the mother of the 16-year-old cried, prompting tears from her son. ""It's good to see you cry," Judge Dougherty told him. "I didn't see you cry over the victims' pain."
Prosecutors said the 10th grader missed 89 days of school last year, and was late for school another 86 days. The judge noted there are only 180 days in the school year.
The 11-year-old was supposed to have been at a Bible study group on the night in question, but told the judge he skipped it because he didn't want to be there.
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Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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